45% of Americans Are Feeling Depressed During the COVID-19 Pandemic
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by Covid-19 Health Resource Center | 6.8.20
Beginning on April 23, 2020, the US Census Bureau started conducting its “Household Pulse Survey” to study “how people’s lives have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The Census Bureau sent questionnaires to an average of 1.3 million households every week in the first four weeks of the survey. About 6.6% of those households responded.
Four questions related to depression and anxiety offer up-to-date information on Americans’ mental health nationwide, in individual states, and amongst various demographic groups. The most recent data released was collected between May 21 and 26, before the death of George Floyd and nationwide protests against police brutality and racism, but still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The results show high levels of anxiety and depression compared with a similar annual survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2018. It should be noted that the CDC survey asked a different question than the Census Bureau.
Regarding anxiety, 55% of American adults experienced “frequency of feeling nervous, anxious, or on edge” in the last seven days. A quarter of all respondents reported feeling that way more than half of the days in the last week.
National responses (May 21-26): In the past 7 days, How many days were you...
About 47% of Americans said they experienced “not being able to stop or control worrying” at least several days during the past week.
Regarding depression, about 45% of respondents said they felt “down, depressed, or hopeless” for several days in the previous week. About 18% reported these types of feelings the majority of the days in the past week.
About 47% responded to “having little interest or pleasure in doing things” during several days in the past week. 20% of all respondents reported feeling that way the majority of the week.
The Demographics of Anxiety and Depression
Feelings of anxiety and depression are strongly correlated with income. Respondents with lower household incomes, or those who lost some sort of income recently, reported higher frequencies of negative feelings. For example, 68% of respondents in households earning less than $25,000 responded feeling down, depressed, or hopeless several days in the previous week. Only 38% of those in households earning more than $150,000 reported the same feelings.
About 57% of the people who reported losing employment income said they felt unable to stop or control worrying several days a week compared with 38% of those who didn’t lose their primary source of income.
Percentage of respondents responding feeling this way several days in the past week (May 21-May 26)
The data also shows geographic differences. About 49% of adults in California, Nevada, and Louisiana reported feeling down, depressed, or hopeless several days in the past week compared with 37% of adults in six states — Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless at least several days in the past week
How this data compares to past data
The above Census data is looking at depression and anxiety during a specific period of American life: a global pandemic.
The Behavioral Risk Factors Surveillance System, administered by the CDC, asked in 2018: “Has a doctor, nurse, or other health professional ever told you have a depressive disorder?”
In 2011, the rate of depression for the US adult population was 17.5%. Since then, it’s been on a mostly steady rise, except for a small dip in 2016 to 17.3%. In 2017, the depression rate rose to 20%; in 2018, the last year data is available, the depression rate for the US adult population was 19.6%.
How people are feeling at the moment has traditionally not been easy to quantify with government data. The Census’ new experimental survey offers a rather up-to-date way to assess the state of the nation. While the Census Bureau plans to collect the data for only 90 days, how the survey assesses mental health or any of the other issues it includes may serve as a guide for how to understand the nation’s mood in the future.
If you feel like you need someone to talk to, call the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746. The service provides free, 24/7, 365-day-a-year crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters. (Including COVID-19.)
If you’re worried about harming yourself, help is available at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or chat online here. The service is free and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All calls are confidential.
SOURCES & FOOTNOTES
- US Census Bureau - Household Pulse Survey
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)
(Photo Credit: CasarsaGuru / iStock)
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