Background: Social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in changes in the work environment and employment uncertainty . This paper reports on a cross-national comparison of four countries (Norway, UK, USA and Australia) and examines the differences in mental health between those individuals employed and those not employed during the social distancing implementation .
Methods: Participants (N = 3,810) were recruited through social media in April/May 2020 and were invited to complete a self-administered electronic survey over a 3-week period . Differences between those employed and those not employed with regard to their sociodemographic characteristics and mental health were investigated with chi-square tests, independent t tests, and one-way analysis of variances (ANOVAs).
Results: Compared with their counterparts, participants who were employed reported lower levels of mental health distress (p <0.001), higher levels of psychosocial well-being (p <0.001), better overall quality of life (p <0.001), and lower levels of overall loneliness, social loneliness, and emotional loneliness (p <0.001). Small to medium but consistent differences (Cohen ’ s d = 0.23–0.67) in mental health favor those with employment or those who were retired . Conclusion: Further study is needed to assess mental health over time as the COVID-19 pandemic and employment uncertainty continues.