Coronavirus Pandemic Raises Mental Health Concerns, Survey Shows

61% have discussed their feelings and mental health since the outbreak began
A woman talking on the phone

While the coronavirus crisis is prompting a spike of anxiety among consumers, a silver lining may be that the pandemic is also raising awareness about the importance of mental health.

With May designated as Mental Health Awareness Month, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) released a new survey on how Americans are faring with the uncertainty created by the public health emergency.

More than half of those surveyed — 53% — said they are experiencing anxiety more often now than they did before the pandemic, with that figure rising to 55% among parents. On top of that, 51% of all respondents said they are feeling sadness more often now than they did before the COVID-19 outbreak.

AFSP Chief Medical Officer Dr. Christine Moutier cited “uncertainty, isolation, economic stress and concern about physical health” as factors stemming from the current situation.

At the same time, however, many respondents said they were taking measures to counteract the ill effects on mental health from the pandemic.

Combating the isolation

With stay-at-home orders across the country mandating that Americans socially distance from their friends, neighbors and extended families, many Americans have struggled with loneliness since the pandemic began.

However, the AFSP survey also found that Americans are finding other ways to stay in touch and are connecting with loved ones about as often as they did before the stay-at-home orders were imposed.

And these connections could have a therapeutic effect. Almost two-thirds of respondents (61%) said they have had “open and honest conversations about their thoughts, feelings and mental health” since the pandemic began.

This appears to be helping, as 77% of respondents who have had such talks about their feelings said they felt better after doing so.

Still, many people find it hard to open up about their feelings. The survey showed 38% of respondents were hesitant to share what was troubling them because of “awkward or uncomfortable feelings,” and 29% said they were afraid to have such conversations due to “the fear of being judged.”

Recognizing the value of mental health

Some respondents indicated they were focusing more on their mental health now than they did before the coronavirus outbreak began.

More than a third of those surveyed (38%) said they had started talking more frequently about mental health than before, while 28% said they spoke about it less frequently now. Also, 52% of respondents said they were speaking more about stress and anxiety since the pandemic began, compared to 35% who discussed these topics less often.

For some the change has been significant: A full 35% said they had gone from talking about their mental health with others less than once a month to now touching on the topic at least once a week.

Likewise, 16% of respondents who admitted to being uncomfortable talking about their mental health before the pandemic said they are now comfortable doing so.

Americans are also finding other ways to handle the extra anxiety they are experiencing due to the pandemic. More than half of those questioned in the survey (57%) said they believed certain activities had helped them manage their stress, including exercise, online gaming and listening to music.

Methodology: AFSP Research + Insights surveyed 1,005 adults during the month of April, using the Qualtrics Insight Platform for the poll and a panel sourced from Lucid.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.