Anxiety, depression in grocery store workers heightened amid pandemic

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A recent study shows that grocery store workers, and other retail employees, are under an increased amount of stress, resulting in higher levels of anxiety and depression.

Part of the stress is due to pandemic-related hostility from customers, as well as other uncertainties during COVID.

Professor Brian Mayer said that he and his team are surprised by the heightened levels they are seeing. He said anxiety, depression and stress are “well above” twice the national average.

The demand upon these workers remains the same, but their workforce continues to decline, he said.

“We have some people telling us that they have lost half the work force in a particular grocery store and their management expects everything to be the same level of productivity,” Mayer said.

Grocery store workers have been categorized as essential workers and seen a lot of trauma the pandemic brought without any training at all, Mayer said.

“One of the strongest predictors of high levels of mental health was whether or not folks felt adequately prepared, whether or not they received training, and then whether or not that training was reinforced,” Mayer said.

He said those answers were “largely no,” meaning that they hadn’t received adequate training, and did not feel supported by management. Hostile situations with customers created a large amount of stress that these workers did not feel prepared for.

Mayer said he encourages everyone to be cognizant and aware of these ongoing stressors that grocery store workers are facing.

“If you as an individual, or your family members, are in a grocery store be kind, be respectful. These folks are doing a lot of work to maintain these key social functions,” Mayer said.


Professor Brian Mayer, UArizona School of Sociology

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