Business office or store shop is closed/bankrupt business due to the effect of novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Unidentified person wearing mask hanging closed sign in background on front door.

COVID-19 and the mental toll on Americans

Americans, and especially our country’s youth, were already experiencing a mental health reckoning before the novel coronavirus. Now, 5 months into the pandemic, there is evidence COVID-19 is acting like an accelerant thrown on the fire that is America’s mental health crisis.

A new survey released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is a sobering reminder of the toll the pandemic, the ensuing lockdowns, and economic fallout has on the mental state of Americans. The survey was taken between June 24-30 in a web format.

The chart above reveals respondents’ answers to questions and mental issues, substance abuse, and suicide based on age and demographic characteristics. The results are hard to comprehend. Here are some of the main takeaways, in my opinion:

  • 40.9 percent of all respondents reported symptoms of at least 1 adverse mental or behavioral health symptom
  • 30.9 percent of all respondents reported symptoms of an anxiety or depressive disorder while 26.3 percent of respondents reported a PTSD like conditions (COVID-19 related TSRD category)
  • 13.3 percent of all respondents reported starting or increasing a substance to cope with pandemic-related stress
  • Males and females were fairly similar with regard to the prevalence of an anxiety or depressive disorder
  • 12.6 percent of males reported they had seriously considered suicide in the past 30 days while 8.9 percent of females reported the same
  • 62.9 percent of respondents in the age group of 18-24 reported an anxiety or depressive disorder, the highest among all age groups, while those in the 25-44 age group reported the same at a rate of 40.4 percent, 20.3 percent in the 45-64 group, and 8.1 percent in the 65 and older range
  • 25.5 percent of respondents in the 18-24 age group reported they had seriously considered suicide in the past 30 days, by far the highest of any age group
  • 24.7 percent of respondents in the 18-24 said they had started or increased substance use to cope with pandemic related stress
  • Broken down by race, Hispanic Americans had the highest reported prevalence of an anxiety disorder at 40.8 percent followed by the “other” category at 33.2 percent, then Black Americans at 30.2 percent, and then White Americans at 29.2 percent

As I said, America was already grappling with how to handle the rise of mental health issues, especially among the youngest Americans. Lockdowns, social distancing, constant negative news, job loss, financial insecurity are likely large culprits in this sharp uptick in reported mental health disorders and thoughts of suicide.

No one knows exactly how long all of this will last. But suffice it to say that this pandemic, and the subsequent government actions and economic downturns, have only exacerbated an already growing problem.

For more information on mental health issues in America, see:

Jordan Roberts / Health Policy Analyst

Jordan joined the Locke Foundation in the summer of 2018 as Health Care Policy Analyst. He analyzes state and national health policy issues with an eye toward removing governm...

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