The impact of introducing a national scheme for paid parental leave on maternal mental health outcomes

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Paid maternity leave is an essential component of a progressive society. It can enhance postnatal health, improve mother and child wellbeing, and deliver better labor market outcomes for mothers. We evaluate the impact of the introduction of Australia's national Paid Parental Leave (PPL) scheme in 2011 and complementary Dad and Partner Pay (DAPP) in 2013 on maternal mental health. Using a sample of 1480 births to eligible, partnered women between 2004 and 2016 and examining a range of mental health outcomes from the Household, Income, andLabour Dynamics in Australia survey, we find depression likelihood reduced significantly in post‐reform years. When focusing on post‐DAPP years and women whose partners had concurrent access to DAPP, significant mental health improvements were found across a wider range of measures including the Mental Component Summary score and specific Short Form‐36 items with a high sensitivity for detecting major depression. Subgroup analysis suggests significant improvements applied specifically to first‐time mothers and mothers with employer‐paid maternity leave and unpaid leave entitlements. These results suggest that an increase in PPL and DAPP entitlements for mothers without access to employer‐paid and unpaid leave entitlements, particularly those in less secure employment, may further reduce postnatal depression and improve health equity in Australia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1657-1681
Number of pages25
JournalHealth Economics
Issue number12
Early online date15 Sep 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Australia
  • maternal health and wellbeing
  • maternity leave
  • mental health
  • paid parental leave


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