The effect of extending parental leave on women's mental health: a quasi-experimental registry-based cohort study
Joint with CERGAS
Parental leave policies have been hypothesized to benefit mothers’ mental health. We assessed the impact of a 6-week extension of parental leave in Denmark on maternal mental health. We linked individual-level data from Danish national registries on maternal sociodemographic characteristics and psychiatric diagnoses. A regression discontinuity design was applied to study the increase in parental leave duration after March 26th, 1984. We included women who had given birth between January 1st, 1981 and December 31st, 1987.
Our outcome was a first psychiatric diagnosis following the child’s birth, ascertained as the first day of inpatient hospital admission for any psychiatric disorder. We presented cumulative incidences for the 30-year follow-up period and reported absolute risk differences between women eligible to the reform vs. not in 5-year intervals. 291,143 women were followed up until 2017, death, emigration or date of first psychiatric diagnosis. The median follow-up time was 29.99 years corresponding to 10,277,547 person-years at risk. Eligible women took on average 32.85 additional days of parental leave (95% CI: 29.20 to 36.49) and had a lower probability of having a psychiatric diagnosis 5 years (risk difference [RD]: 2.4 fewer diagnoses per 1000 women, 95% CI: 3.2 to 1.5) and up to 20 years after the birth (RD 2.3, 95% CI: 4.2 to 0.4).
In subgroup analyses, the risk reduction was only observed among low-educated women. Longer parental leave may confer mental health benefits to women, in particular to those with lower education.
Emilie Courtin, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).
Emilie Courtin is Assistant Professor of Social Epidemiology and Public Policy at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Her research combines social epidemiology and social policy to assess how non-medical policies influence health and disease. She uses experimental and quasi-experimental methods to evaluate the long-term health effects of public policies shaping socioeconomic conditions.
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