Sandwich generation brings unique set of responsibilities and challenges to the workplace

SAN FRANCISCO and WASHINGTON – As Americans flock to vaccine sites nationwide, a collective sigh of relief is almost palpable. Yet, for some, despite the promise of protection from a deadly and unpredictable virus, the trauma of the past year is just now taking its toll. According to the Mental Health Index: U.S. Worker Edition, employeesages 40-59 are experiencing worrisome declines in mental health over the last few months. Risk of PTSD has increased 51% since January; and planning, which impacts decisiveness, is down 10% in March 2021. Further, risk of general anxiety is 86% higher than before the pandemic. Findings also reveal that these employeeshave increased feelings of panic (9%) and fear (12%) when compared to before COVID-19.

Reason for Optimism

Conversely,the last two monthsof data from the Mental Health Index revealspositive mental health trends for working women across all age groups; giving employers some reason for optimism. Between February and March, women are showing notable improvements including:

• 24% decrease in anxiety

• 21% decrease in depressed mood

• 13% decrease in stress 

• 7% decrease in conscious negativity bias

The Mental Health Index: U.S. Worker Edition, powered by Total Brain, a mental health and brain performance self-monitoring and self-care platform, is distributed in partnership with the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, One Mind at Work, and the HR Policy Association and its American Health Policy Institute.

“The data reflects the brain’s adaptive fluidity amid ongoing uncertainty,” said Evian Gordon, MD, PhD, chief medical officer, Total Brain. “Mental health, like physical fitness, changes continually. Monitoring brain capacities regularly is a powerful lens to help target and manage brain performance – to magnify what works and reframe the challenges.”

Louis Gagnon, CEO of Total Brain, said, “The good news is great, but the bad news is very disconcerting for employees aged 40-59. This sandwich generation is tending to children and aging parents amid a pandemic, and an uncertain economic environment. These workers are likely holding middle and upper management positions; and they are responsible for maintaining business as usual at a time when business is anything but usual. Employers must be mindful of this group’s unique needswhen strategizing employee mental health benefits and initiatives.”

Colleen McHugh, executive vice president of the American Health Policy Institute and strategic advisor for HR Policy Association said, “The latest numbers demonstrate the continued strain on the mental health of America’s workforce and the complex nature of the pandemic-era fallout, which will continue to impact the country for years to come. Large employers, currently grappling with vaccine protocols and return-to-work strategies, continue to prioritize not just the safety of their employees, but also their overall wellbeing and mental health.”

Michael Thompson, National Alliance president and CEO, added, “The momentum of the vaccines and the gradual opening up of the economy appears to be making a difference in mental health and outlook of many employees. Unfortunately, many may feel lasting effects of the trauma from the past year and employers are working feverishly to help employees navigate this last mile of the COVID era.”

“With this variation of data, we can expect to see a period of emotional volatility, as people hold onto the promise of getting back to normal, albeit with the carryover impact of the 2020 experience,” said Daryl Tol, who joined One Mind as Executive President this past March and offers more than 20 years of healthcare leadership. “The best way for managers to support their employees is to get closer to your team—be open about your own experiences, talk through and understand  what is going on.”

The full Mental Health Index results can be found here. For additional insights there will be a complimentary 30-minute webinar on Friday,April 16at 12 p.m. Eastern.Russell Meyerowitz, COO, Brand New, will join Gagnon, Thompson, McHugh and Tol. Register here:

For more information, Mental Health in the COVID-19 Era: A Year in Review providesa month-by-month overview of the Mental Health Index data juxtaposed against the state of COVID-19 in the U.S. and around the world. This report covers how COVID-19 has affected the mental health of U.S. employees over the past 12 months, including everything from job security and safety to changes at home and events in the news.

Methodology: The Mental Health Index: U.S. Worker Edition contains data drawn from a weekly randomized sample of 500 working Americans taken from a larger universe of Total Brain users. The Index is NOT a survey or a poll. Data is culled from neuroscientific brain assessments using standardized digital tasks and questions from the Total Brain platform. Participants include workers from all walks of life and regions, job levels, occupations, industries, and types of organizations (public vs. private). The brain assessments used to compile the Mental Health Index were taken weekly from February 27 toMarch 31, 2021.