Methods: Data and Sample. The analytic sample comprised 319 individuals who reported being essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. About 50% of participants identified as female, and 92% identified as heterosexual. Nearly 68% of participants identified as Black or African American, 18% identified as Native American or Alaskan Native, 6% identified as Latinx or Hispanic, and 7% identified as Asian or Native Hawaiian. Measures. The Holms-Rahe Life Stress Inventory was used to gather information about whether any of 43 life-stress experiences occurred because of COVID-19. These items served as observed indicators for the Latent Class Analysis (LCA). We also assessed differences across latent classes using measures of binge eating, substance use, perceived stress, COVID-19 anxiety, and socio-demographic and work-related measures. Analysis. LCA was used to explore the presence of unobserved subgroups within the sample that clustered around similar response patterns across the life-stress experiences items. After identifying the optimal or best fitting solution, the three-step procedure outlined by Asparouhov and Muthén (2014) was used to estimate covariate differences across latent classes.
Results: The class enumeration process signaled that a three-class solution was optimal. The three classes were labeled as follows (a) minimally impacted (marked by zero or near-zero conditional probabilities of endorsement across all 43 life-stress experiences), (b) moderately impacted (marked by non-zero conditional probabilities of item endorsement across most life-stress experiences), and (c) widely impacted (marked by considerable probabilities of item endorsement across all 43 life-stress experiences). Overall, most of our sample reported being minimally impacted (53%) or moderately impacted (35%) by life-stress events caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the 11% of participants clustered within the widely impacted pattern reported significantly more concerns with substance use, binge eating, perceived stress, and COVID-19 anxiety.
Conclusions and Implications: Findings of this study highlight distinct patterns of life-stress impacts caused by COVID-19 among a sample of essential workers of color. Although most of sample reported being minimally impacted by life-stress events because of COVID-19, a smaller subset composed of potentially high-risk essential workers revealed the impact of working in professions that may increase perceived anxiety, stress, and the use of aberrant coping strategies. Future research and policy changes are needed to meet the needs of those who are most vulnerable in our society, in part due to their work in positions essential to our society’s continued functioning.