The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting many people’s mental health and created new barriers for people already suffering from mental illness and substance use disorders,” report authors at the Kaiser family foundation (KFF).
The research team was led by Nirmita Panchal, collected data in July. They found that 53% of US adults said that their mental health has been negatively impacted due to worry and stress over the coronavirus. Researchers noted that this was significantly higher than the 32% they found in March 2020.”
Many adults are also reporting specific negative impacts on their mental health and wellbeing, such as difficulty sleeping (36%) or eating (32%), increases in alcohol consumption or substance use (12%), and worsening chronic conditions (12%), due to worry and stress over the coronavirus.”
Authors concluded that, “As the pandemic wears on, ongoing and necessary public health measures expose many people to experiencing situations linked to poor mental health outcomes, such as isolation and job loss.”
The researcher cited other conclusions noting that research links social isolation and loneliness to poor mental health. The data from late March shows that “significantly higher shares of people who were sheltering in place (47%) reported negative mental health effects resulting from worry or stress related to coronavirus than among those not sheltering-in-place (37%).”
“In particular, isolation and loneliness during the pandemic may present specific mental health risks for households with adolescents and for older adults. The share of older adults (ages 65 and up) reporting negative mental health impacts has increased since March. Polling data shows that women with children under the age of 18 are more likely to report major negative mental health impacts than their male counterparts.”
Authors also point out that job loss is associated with increased depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. These problems may lead to higher rates of substance use disorder and suicide. “… data shows that more than half of the people who lost income or employment reported negative mental health impacts from worry or stress over coronavirus; and lower income people report higher rates of major negative mental health impacts compared to higher income people,” noted the KFF researchers.
“Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly one in five of U.S. adults (47 million) reported having a mental illness in the past year, and over 11 million had a serious mental illness, which frequently results in functional impairment and limits life activities. In 2017-2018, more than 17 million adults and an additional three million adolescents had a major depressive episode in the past year.
“Deaths due to drug overdose have increased more than threefold over the past 19 years (from 6.1 deaths per 100,000 people in 1999 to 20.7 deaths per 100,000 people in 2018).
In 2018, over 48,000 Americans died by suicide, and in 2017-2018, nearly eleven million adults (4.3%) reported having serious thoughts of suicide in the past year.
The authors state that during this unprecedented pandemic, it is reasonable to predict that mental health issues and substance abuse are exacerbated.