A new meta study published in The Lancet provides a fresh reminder to lawmakers and policy experts that parental leave, especially paid leave, has numerous benefits, both for parental health and economic health, and leave is especially beneficial for mothers.
The study, in which Swedish researchers analyzed 45 previous studies focused on parental leave policies, determined that parents in countries with strong parental leave policies experienced less burnout, depression, and distress. Additionally, these effects lasted long after the initial postpartum period and in some cases reached into the later lives of parents.
As is well known already, financial uncertainty leads to worse mental and physical health outcomes. Throw being a new parent into the mix and you’ve got a recipe for serious problems. But in the case of parents who live in countries with generous paid parental policies, much of the stress from uncertainty is relieved, allowing parents to focus on their health and well-being along with that of their child’s.
As is also well known, the United States ranks dead last on the globe in terms of parental leave, and is the only developed nation that does not provide any paid leave for new parents. It remains a scandalous state of affairs that the United States cannot find the political will to develop federal-level policies that provide all parents with any parental leave. Instead, we leave it up to the whims of employers to provide meager, often unpaid leave to new parents, while mothers continue to face harsh repercussions for simply being pregnant. A number of states have passed Paid Parental Leave policies, but there is still no federal policy.