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Mental health impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic: An Update.

Updated: Jan 14

The coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. has taken a toll on people's mental health and created new barriers for those seeking mental health care. Stress and worry about contracting the virus, coupled with job losses, loss of childcare, as well as the devastating loss of loved ones due to COVID-19 are just a few ways in which the pandemic may be having an effect on mental health.


Worries About Getting Sick


One potential contributor to negative mental health impacts may be the fear of contracting COVID-19 or having a family member get sick from the disease. When asked ho worried they are they or someone in their family will get sick from COVID-19, some of the same groups that are most likely to report negative mental health impacts are also the most likely to report being worried, including women, and younger adults.


Access to providers and affordability appear to be the biggest barriers for those who felt they needed mental health care because of the pandemic but did not receive them. One in four adults who did not get the mental health care say the main reason why was because they could not find a provider (24%) or could not afford the cost (23%). An additional one in five (18%) say they were too busy or could not get the time off work to receive treatment. One in ten say they had problems with insurance covering their treatment while 5% said they were afraid or embarrassed to seek treatment.


During the pandemic about 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder, a share that has been largely consistent, up from one to ten.


During the COVID-19 pandemic, concerns about mental health and substance use have grown, including concerns about suicidal ideation. In January 2021, 41% of adults reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depressive disorder, a share that has been largely stable since spring 2020.


Young Adults


Throughout the pandemic, anxiety, depression, sleep disruptions and thoughts of suicide have increased. They have also experienced a number of pandemic-related consequences - such as closures of universities, transitioning to remote work, and loss of income or employment - that may contribute to poor mental health.


Adults Experiencing Job Loss or Income Insecurity


Many people across the country have experienced job or income loss, which has generally affected their mental health. Adults experiencing household job loss during the pandemic have consistently reported higher rates of anxiety and/or depressive disorder compared to adults not experiencing household job loss.


Communities of Color


The pandemic's mental health impact has been pronounced among the communities of color also experiencing disproportionately high rates of COVID-19 cases and deaths.


Essential Workers


Essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as health care providers, grocery store employees, and mail and package delivery personnel, have shown high rates of poor mental health outcomes. These workers are generally required to work outside of their home and may be unable to practice social distancing. Consequently, they are at increased risk of contracting coronavirus and exposing other members of their household. During the pandemic, frontline health care workers have reported feelings of anxiety and depression and thoughts of suicide.



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