The Grapevine

Mental Distress Cases Skyrocket In US Amid Coronavirus Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed lives. Schools, universities, offices and public spaces have suddenly shut, along with the imposition of social-distancing and travel restrictions everyone must face. Unemployment, economic downfall, shortage of medical equipment and rise in deaths are currently contributing to widespread distress in the United States.  

According to a recent study conducted by San Diego State University and Florida State University, the pandemic has severely impacted the mental health of Americans in March and April this year. 

The results of the study were derived from analyzing the 2018 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) collected annually by the U.S. Census Bureau, which was answered by 19,330 internet users that year.

A similar survey of 2,032 U.S. adults representative of the national population measured mental distress on the Kessler-6 scale in the month of April 2020 and made a comparison to the NHIS sample to evaluate the difference between now and then. 

As of last month, the number of Americans suffering from a serious mental illnesses had gone up eight times. How so? About 28 percent of the respondents’ answers met the criteria for serious mental illness compared to 3.4 percent in 2018. Also, 70.4 percent of those in the study indicated that they have moderate to serious mental illness compared to 22.0 percent in 2018, showing a threefold increase in the rate. 

The uncertainties of the pandemic has made people more nervous than before, as evidenced by the growing percentage of people who feel this way. In 2020, 57.6 percent of people reported feeling nervous either sometimes or all the time, while 20.6 percent reported feeling nervousness two years ago, revealing a tripling in the numbers in this category.

The following are some of the differences noted by the study consistent across demographics, race, gender and age, all of which show between a three to five times increase.

  • Restlessness - 56.6 percent in 2020 versus 21.9 percent in 2018
  • Everything was an effort - 51.3 percent in 2020 vs. 18.2 percent in 2018
  • Sadness - 46.1 percent vs. 10.8 percent
  • Hopelessness - 37.8 percent vs. 6.9 percent
  • Worthiness - 32.9 percent vs. 5.6 percent

The project, which was led by San Diego State University psycology professor Jean Twenge and Thomas E. Joiner of Florida State University, has not been peer-reviewed and is still awaiting formal publication. 

Mental health The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that one in every four people in the world is at risk of developing mental disorders. The risks have increased during the pandemic, where people are isolated and social distancing. Pixabay

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