CDC says that 40% of adults are struggling with mental health during COVID-19

Key points

  • The latest data released by the CDC shows that as the pandemic continues, mental health problems have increased significantly.
  • This adds to similar studies that show that anxiety and mental distress are becoming more common, even among people who have never had these problems before.
  • Focusing on the things you can control can help, especially maintaining social connections and building a solid daily life.

According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a significant increase in mental health and substance use, and 40% of adults in the United States are struggling.

Experts worry that long-term stress and continuous uncertainty may have a lasting impact on our mental health.

“The brain likes certainty, familiarity, routines, planning, and habits. When these are missing, it can be very challenging. When they are missing for months or even a long time, the problem becomes even greater,” says Paul Nestadt , MD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The report shows statistics in late June based on a survey of American adults, and found that the following conditions are common:

  • Anxiety/depressive symptoms: 31%
  • Symptoms of trauma/stressor related diseases: 26%
  • Start or increase substance use: 13%
  • Seriously considering suicide: 11%

The CDC data is not the only study showing a general increase in mental health problems, especially anxiety. Recently, the results of a poll published by the Caesars Family Foundation showed that 53% of respondents believe that COVID-19 is affecting their mental health, an increase of 14% since May.

No burden

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, people found a way to deal with it, because there seemed to be a glimmer of light at the end of the blocked tunnel. But according to Nestadt, as it continues to procrastinate, the lack of potential endpoints becomes an incentive for burnout.

Recently, the term “epidemic fatigue” has appeared more and more frequently, and Nestadt predicts that this situation may deepen as summer turns into autumn. “It is not knowing that will continue to cause anxiety,” he said.

“Even if they are told that COVID-19 may last until the end of the year and beyond, some experts say we need to be prepared for it. As the new normal in the next few years, I think most of us can only see the next few months,” Stater said.

Paul Nestat, MD

Psychologically speaking, humans can know more flexibly when the challenge is over because they can target that end. There is no one in this pandemic. This is a big problem.

— Paul Nestat, MD

Will we eventually adapt to this new normal? We don’t know yet. Will anxiety and depression continue to rise, especially in a terrible political climate? we do not know. When it comes to all aspects of our society, from public health to business operations to family relationships, what long-term impact will all these have? At this point, it is anyone’s guess.

Same epidemic, different experience

What makes mental health problems more complicated now is that not everyone faces the same degree of difficulty.

A recent survey conducted by the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University pointed out that financial instability is the main driver of pandemic-related anxiety and higher income in the United States.

“This is not surprising, because people in the low-income class usually have a salary cut or unemployment because of COVID,” said Dr. Elizabeth Stewart, the school’s associate dean of education. Bloomberg College, at a press conference on the findings of the investigation on August 27.

In a recent report by the Caesars Family Foundation, 40% of respondents stated that they had difficulty paying for essential items, including health insurance, medical expenses, food, and utility bills, in the past three months. Among them, more than half said it was because of the impact of the coronavirus on their financial situation.

The report also pointed out that certain groups, including Hispanic and black adults, are more likely to have an adverse health impact on coronavirus-related concerns or stress.

Strategies to try

As the pandemic continues, Stewart said that public health work and outreach and increased access to mental health resources will be critical. This is especially important for those facing financial difficulties and unemployment, as they may not be able to access mental health services.

Dr. Elizabeth Stewart

We need to continue to collect data that shows us who is most at risk. From there, it is crucial to allocate resources based on these risk levels.

— Elizabeth Stewart, PhD

Alyza Berman of LCSW, founder and clinical director of the Berman Center at Atlanta Mental Health Treatment Center, said that for individuals, there are short-term strategies that can alleviate at least some anxiety symptoms. These include:

  • Maintain social contact with friends and family
  • Health-conscious habits, especially exercise, sleep, and healthy eating
  • If you work from home, create a structure with “check-in” and “check-out” times
  • Rest often
  • Drinking in moderation

In addition, Berman added, if you feel overwhelmed, anxious, or just want to consult a mental health professional, please consider using mental health resources, such as a therapist.

What this means to you

It is not easy to get through a pandemic, and it is not shameful to ask for help. If you find yourself experiencing emotional and mental health challenges or signs of anxiety and/or depression, please consult your primary care physician for appropriate mental health care referrals.

Even for new patients, you can have telemedicine meetings with a therapist or consultant. If you have any thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255, 24/7 to provide help.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means that you may receive updated information while reading this article. For the latest updates on COVID-19, please visit our Coronavirus News page.