The Parenthood Penalty in Mental Health: Evidence from Austria and Denmark

Martin Halla, Alexander Ahammer, Ulrich Glogowsky, Timo Hener

Publication: Working/Discussion PaperWU Working Paper

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Using Austrian and Danish administrative data, we examine the impacts of parenthood on mental health equality. Parenthood imposes a greater mental health burden on mothers than on fathers. It creates a long-run gender gap in antidepressant prescriptions of about 93.2% (Austria) and 64.8% (Denmark). Further evidence suggests that these parenthood penalties in mental health are unlikely to reflect differential help-seeking behavior across the sexes or the biological effects of giving birth to a child. Instead, they seem to mirror the psychological effects of having, raising, and investing in children. Supporting this interpretation, matched adoptive mothers (who do not experience the biological impacts of childbirth) also encounter substantial parenthood penalties. Moreover, mothers who invest more in childcare (by taking extended maternity leave in quasi-experimental settings) are more likely to face mental health problems.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherWU Vienna University of Economics and Business
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024

Publication series

SeriesDepartment of Economics Working Paper Series

WU Working Paper Series

  • Department of Economics Working Paper Series


  • gender equality
  • fertility
  • parenthood
  • motherhood
  • mental health
  • parental leave

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