World Mental Health Day, celebrated every year on October 10, is more important than ever now, as we come out of the pandemic. Our recent research, completed in late summer 2022, shows the extent of challenges the pandemic has created for Americans. Plus, we look at how some people are responding.
Our survey found that a staggering proportion of Americans (43%) report that they experienced challenges to their emotional, psychological or social well-being between spring 2020 and spring 2022.
The Americans who experienced these challenges had compounding issues to contend with:
- Two-thirds (67%) also faced financial difficulties
- 43% had physical health problems
- One quarter (26%) increased the time they spent caregiving for others
When reflecting on their current state as compared to before the pandemic, most Americans experienced changes to their mental well-being. One in three (32%) say they are doing worse now and 29% are doing better.
Relatedly, we’ve recently reported on the extent to which Americans used the disruption associated with the pandemic to “reset” their lives.
This reset is connected to other factors that helped people manage their recent challenges. Seven in ten of those who feel their emotional well-being has improved view the pandemic as a reset. However, only 46% of those who fared worse view it as such.
Catalyst to Adaptive Behaviors
One response to emotional stress is to take a turn toward spirituality. Those who were challenged emotionally by their pandemic experience were twice as likely to have turned more to spirituality (33% vs 17% among those not challenged).
Some are making changes that have improved aspects of their lives. Those who experienced emotional, psychological or social well-being challenges and now feel better emotionally are much more likely to have made a range of personal and professional life changes.
Making Mental Health a Priority
Mental health services are often difficult to find, and, unfortunately, stigma remains a barrier to care. The pandemic and social distancing efforts exacerbated this tenuous situation.
However, improving outcomes is possible. According to the World Health Organization, “there is increasing evidence that the reduction of mental ill health is achievable by using both general and targeted evidence-based interventions [PDF].”
The challenges wrought by the pandemic are so prominent that, just a couple of weeks ago, a US Government health panel recommended screening all Americans under age 65 for anxiety.
Being aware of our mental and physical health is the necessary first step in making changes. Those changes may be simply helpful or could be necessary. Our research shows that half of Americans are now paying more attention to their health since the pandemic.
Caring for our mental health is pivotal for our country, economy, businesses, society, culture and each one of us personally — to not only survive but, hopefully, to thrive. While our research demonstrates that some have made positive changes since the pandemic, many Americans are still struggling. Let’s do what we can to erase the stigma, increase awareness of mental health concerns and find help for those who need it.