Americans’ anxiety and concerns about COVID-19 remain high a year into the pandemic, and mental health effects of the health crisis are on the rise, a new survey shows.
Hispanic (73%) and Black Americans (76%) are more anxious about COVID-19 than white people (59%), according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA) online survey of 1,000 U.S. adults. It was conducted March 26 to April 5.
Among parents, concerns about their children were significant.
“This poll shows that even as vaccines become more widespread, Americans are still worried about the mental state of their children,” said Dr. Jeffrey Geller, president of the APA.
“This is a call to action for policymakers, who need to remember that in our COVID-19 recovery, there’s no health without mental health,” Geller added in an association news release.
In general, people were more worried about family and loved ones catching the coronavirus (64%) than about catching the virus themselves (49%), the survey found. Moreover, concern about family and loved ones being infected rose from 56% last year to 64% now.
While four out of 10 respondents were more anxious than last year, that’s down from just over 60% in 2020. Those more likely to say they’re more anxious now include young adults (aged 18 to 29) at 49%, and Hispanics at 50%. People aged 65 and older were less likely to say they’re more anxious than last year, the findings showed.
More than 40% said the pandemic has had a serious impact on their mental health, up from 37% in 2020. By age groups, the rates were higher among younger and middle-aged adults than among older adults.
The percentage of respondents who said they’re consuming more alcohol or other substances/drugs than normal rose from 14% last year to 17% this year. Many Americans admitted eating more, with one-third of adults (40% of women) saying they’ve gained weight during the pandemic.
More than half of parents with children younger than 18 said they’re concerned about their children’s mental health. Almost 50% said the pandemic has caused mental health problems for one or more of their children, with 19% reporting major problems.
More than one-quarter of parents sought mental health care for a child because of the pandemic, the survey found. Some turned to primary caregivers, while others reached out to psychiatrists, psychologists, school counselors or social workers.
But more than one in five parents said they’ve had difficulty booking appointments for their child with a mental health professional.
APA CEO and medical director Dr. Saul Levin said, “While most people, including most children, will likely adapt and recover well as we emerge from the pandemic, we know from previous research that for some, the mental health impacts of this trauma and distress will continue to have repercussions into the future. We need to be prepared to help those who need it in the coming months and years.”
The survey also found a slight decrease in the number of people who now say the pandemic is affecting their day-to-day life, compared to a year ago, in terms of sleeping problems, difficulties concentrating and fighting more with loved ones.
In addition, about three-quarters of respondents said they have been or intend to get vaccinated, 22% said they don’t intend to get vaccinated and 2% didn’t know.
Among those who do not intend to be vaccinated, the primary concern is about side effects of the vaccine, followed by believing it is not effective or believing the makers of the vaccine aren’t being honest about what’s in it. A small number cited fear of needles, according to the poll.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID-19 and mental health.
SOURCE: American Psychiatric Association, news release, May 2, 2021
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