The 2022 Report on the Status of Women and Girls in California™, developed by the Center for the Advancement of Women at Mount Saint Mary’s University, revels that the health and emotional well-being of California women and girls have regressed in the past five years, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 11th edition of the annual report, “Progress, Regress: Women’s Health Amidst a Pandemic,” assesses the progress, or lack thereof, that California has made in advancing women’s health since 2017, the last time the University made a deep dive into the topic. The findings of the study were released Thursday, March 24, at a public virtual event that gathered thought leaders from various industries to discuss the toll the pandemic has taken on women’s health, from chronic conditions and psychological health to preventive care.
“What we discovered this year is disappointing — generally, trends in life expectancy, racial disparities in mortality and chronic diseases, and the emotional well-being of women have not improved over the past half-decade. In fact, they appear to be getting worse,” MSMU President Ann McElaney-Johnson, PhD, stated in the Report’s introduction . “Layer on top of all this the effect of living in a pandemic, and we have a real problem on our hands.”
Following a presentation of some of this year’s key findings, Jennifer Moss, award-winning journalist, author and international public speaker, shared insights on how to prevent burnout in the future of work. “In order to continue to thrive and flourish, we need to give ourselves more self-compassion and change the way we look at success, so we can incrementally create more opportunities for future generations of women and girls,” said Moss. “We can leverage this crisis to think about the opportunities to make a positive change in our lives, and this involves organizational change in the workplace,” she added.
An expert panel featuring Deborah Allen, ScD (deputy director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health), Paula Helu-Brown, PhD (MSMU assistant professor of psychology), Nzinga Graham ’04, MD (physician at Kaiser Permanente) and Shaista Malik, MD (executive director of the Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute) discussed the intersectionality between health, race and socioeconomic status. The panelists shared actionable recommendations on how to optimize the wellness of women in the future, touching on overarching themes of mental health, the burden of childcare and the challenges of working from home.
“It is crucial to create systemic change at the policy and workplace level that allows women to take care of their physical and emotional wellbeing,” said Helu-Brown.
The event drew to a close with the final remarks from Linda McMurdock, PhD, vice president of student affairs and chief wellness officer at the Mount, who spoke about the comprehensive wellness movement at the University and encouraged the audience to “honor self-care as a priority in our lives.”
“It is often challenging to feel a sense of hope during times of uncertainty. But events like today give us hope. I see hope in our students’ determination to continue their education. Their courage and resilience inspire me every day,” said McMurdock.
Some key findings from this year’s research reveal that:
- Emotional well-being of women has decreased. In 2019, 19% of California women reported having been diagnosed with depression. In 2020, 70% of women reported experiencing mild to severe symptoms of anxiety, and more than half reported symptoms of mild to severe depression. The percentage of women and girls who experienced serious psychological distress during the past year was highest among young women ages 13 to 24. One in three young women ages 13 to 24 experienced serious psychological distress.
- Racial disparities in mortality rates persist. African American women are still more likely to die from breast or cervical cancers than Latinas, white or Asian American women. The same is true for pregnancy-related deaths; for example, African American women are roughly six times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related issue than white women.
- Preventive care screenings plummeted, then rebounded. In year one of the pandemic, preventive screenings were down across the board. For instance, cervical cancer screening rates in California decreased by 80% in 2020. While not yet back at pre-pandemic levels, the annual screenings are now down 25%, as a greater proportion of women are resuming preventive health care screenings.
For the past 11 years, Mount Saint Mary’s has produced the most comprehensive and authoritative collection of research on issues affecting the nearly 20 million women and girls who call California home. Over the last decade, the Report has helped inform public policy decisions and nonprofit funding priorities statewide.
A copy of the 2022 Report can be accessed here.
The entire recording of the 2022 event will be available later this week here.
Report-related media coverage
FOX 11 Los Angeles - President Ann McElaney-Johnson interview on Good Day LA (3.22.2022)
Spectrum 1 - Emerald Archer, director of the Center for the Advancement of Women, in an interview with Spectrum News 1 (3.24.2022)
ABC Los Angeles - President Ann McElaney-Johnson interview on ABC Los Angeles Eyewitness News (3.25.2022)
NBC Los Angeles - “Report: Pandemic Contributed to Declines in Key Health Issues for Women”(3.24.2022)
Yahoo Finance – “Mount Saint Mary's University Releases Comprehensive Report on Women’s Health and Wellbeing” (3.24.22)