Loneliness is a feeling of sadness and unhappiness about being socially isolated. According to the Mayo Clinic, loneliness can be a serious health concern with long-term issues associated with depression and anxiety.
With stay-at-home orders in place across America, ValuePenguin's goal was to better understand how Americans are coping with the lack of social interactions. Our survey found that nearly half of Americans are struggling with loneliness amid social distancing, and many are feeling more anxious.
- 55% of respondents said their mental health is suffering because of the coronavirus outbreak, especially millennials (63%) and parents with young children (64%).
- 47% of Americans said they're feeling more lonely than usual because of the coronavirus pandemic and the isolation it's caused.
- Women, those who live alone, singles and childless Americans cited higher instances of loneliness compared to their peers.
- Only half of Americans said they speak to loved ones daily. But, 1 in 10 said virtual video chats and phone calls only exacerbated feelings of loneliness.
- More than 1 in 5 wants to try out a virtual therapist but hasn't yet due to concerns over whether insurance covers it. That's especially true for Gen Zers (31%) and millennials (23%).
- 59% don't know where to find free mental health resources to access from home.
Mental health of Americans
More than half (55%) of individuals said their mental health is suffering because of the coronavirus outbreak. More women than men — 56% and 54%, respectively— said the coronavirus has taken a toll on their mental health. Only about a fifth (18%) of respondents said their mental health state has not changed at all.
Demographically, millennials (63%) and Gen Xers (59%) reported worsened mental states. Two-thirds (66%) of the silent generation said their mental states have either not been affected at all or very little due to COVID-19.
Aspects of the coronavirus that have negatively affected mental health
Nearly 1 in 6 respondents said the coronavirus has increased anxiety because of the widespread uncertainty. Specifically, females (69%) have felt more anxious compared to their male (48%) counterparts.
Of the individuals who said their mental health has been negatively affected by the coronavirus, a fifth responded that their work-related stress has increased. More than half (52%) have begun to worry about a loss of income since the inception of the pandemic. For individuals who have been laid off or furloughed, 71% said they're worried about their loss of steady income.
Americans overwhelmingly are showing a range of emotions
Unsurprisingly, the coronavirus pandemic has put Americans on a rollercoaster of emotions. Our survey found that over the course of the last month, 58% felt anxious, 39% scared, 38% lonely, 36% exhausted and 30% angry.
Staying at home has forced Americans to be cut off from greater society, meaning less interaction with other individuals and possibly loved ones. The isolation and uncertainty have caused Americans to feel a variety of emotions.
According to our survey, close to 93% of respondents said they have felt an increase of some sort of emotions during the past 30 days. The largest response can be seen in feelings of anxiety, in which 67% and 50% of women and men, respectively, reported this mental toll.
On the other hand, it is worth noting that over a quarter of Americans still feel happy — 26% responded that they have a relaxed outlook.
Who is most at risk for feeling lonely
When asked if a respondent felt more lonely or less lonely since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, people in the Gen X (49%), millennial (48%) and Gen Z (46%) age groups most readily said they are feeling more lonely. People in the silent generation overwhelmingly responded they have not felt any more lonely during this self isolation period — 62% responded "the same."
Those who live alone are especially vulnerable, as 51% are suffering from feelings of loneliness versus 35% of those who live with others. Furthermore, individuals who live alone and live with others have felt a heightened sense of anxiety during the coronavirus pandemic — 53% and 59%, respectively.
Just a third of married respondents feel lonely versus 43% of those who are single. Those with no kids feel more lonely than those who do have children.
Social distancing has led to family and friend disconnect
Social gatherings and communication have been cornerstones of human life. During these times of isolation, only half of Americans said they speak to loved ones on a daily basis.
For the most part, video chatting and phone calls have helped rather than hurt. As much as 42% said these virtual visits made them feel less lonely, and just a tenth of respondents said it made their loneliness worse. Specifically, Gen Z, millennials and Gen X were the age groups most likely to respond that they felt more lonely after a video conference — 15%, 13% and 11%, respectively.
Individuals don't know where to find help, but some are turning to virtual therapy
Nearly 1 in 6 respondents don't know where to find free mental health resources to access from home. Furthermore, this number jumps even higher for older demographics, such as baby boomers (62%) and those from the silent generation (90%).
More than 1 in 5 wants to try out a virtual therapist but hasn't yet due to insurance concerns about whether it's covered. That's especially true for Gen Zers (31%) and millennials (23%), who are the most interested in doing virtual therapy.
When asked about their insurance provider, only 38% said their insurance offered mental health resources/services other than virtual therapists. About 1 in 4 weren't sure, and 19% said it was not offered.
Mental health and loneliness resources
In reality, most insurance providers do offer a variety of mental health resources. For example, many large health insurance providers — such as UnitedHealthcare, Aetna and Cigna — are now increasing their virtual-visit capacity.
If you want additional information about mental health resources, we suggest reaching out to your health insurance provider. Furthermore, for any health insurance questions, we recommend visiting our coronavirus FAQ page here.
Finally, if you believe you are suffering from mental health issues and need immediate help, then we recommend reaching out to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Their national help hotline is free, available 24/7 and does not require health insurance.
ValuePenguin commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,184 Americans, with the sample base proportioned to represent the overall population. The survey was fielded April 14–16, 2020.