Psychological Toll of the Pandemic: A Third of Americans Now Show Signs of Clinical Anxiety or Depression

A third of Americans are showing signs of clinical anxiety or depression, Census Bureau data shows, the most definitive and alarming sign yet of the psychological toll exacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

When asked questions normally used to screen patients for mental health problems, 24 percent showed clinically significant symptoms of major depressive disorder and 30 percent showed symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder.

The findings suggest a huge jump from before the pandemic. For example, on one question about depressed mood, the percentage reporting such symptoms was double that found in a 2014 national survey.

The troubling statistics were released last week in a tranche of data from the Census Bureau. The agency launched an emergency weekly survey of U.S. households at the end of April to measure the pandemic’s effects on employment, housing, finances, education and health.

Some groups have been hit harder than others. Rates of anxiety and depression were far higher among younger adults, women and the poor. The worse scores in young adults were especially notable, given that the virus has been more likely to kill the elderly or leave them critically ill.

Those results reflect a deepening of existing trends: rising depression, stress and suicide among young adults.

As universities and schools look to reopen, they must take mental health into account, said Paul Gionfriddo, president of the advocacy group Mental Health America. “There’s been plenty of talk about spacing desks apart and classroom ratios but not much at all about mental health support,” Gionfriddo said. “For one thing, we have to do much more mental health screening among young people.”

The findings by the Census Bureau echo growing evidence of accumulating mental harms among Americans.

The Census Bureau plans to conduct the survey every week for three months, which could yield valuable data on how Americans’ experience of this pandemic may change. But the initial results raise questions about what the government plans to do about a looming mental health crisis.

Mental health experts say the government has a responsibility to address on a wider national scale the problems highlighted by the survey.

Excerpted from “A third of Americans now show signs of clinical anxiety or depression, Census Bureau finds amid coronavirus pandemic” in The Washington Post. Read the full article.  The dataset from the Household Pulse survey is available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics website.

Source: The Washington Post | A third of Americans now show signs of clinical anxiety or depression, Census Bureau finds amid coronavirus pandemic, | © 2020 The Washington Post

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