According to new data collected by the Census Bureau, over 30 percent of Americans are showing symptoms of anxiety disorder or depressive disorder

By Robyn Merrett
May 27, 2020 05:30 PM
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In the wake of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, a third of Americans are showing signs of clinical anxiety and depression, according to new data collected by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) in partnership with the Census Bureau.

The data collection, which began on April 23 — and will continue for 90 days — was collected in the form of a 20-minute online survey called the Household Pulse Survey. The experiment was done to provide relevant information about the impact of the global health crisis on the U.S.

Participants were asked how often they have felt bothered or showed little interest or pleasure in doing things. According to the findings, between April 23 and May 19, roughly 30 percent of Americans experienced symptoms of an anxiety disorder and nearly 24 percent experienced symptoms of a depressive disorder as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

In participants between the ages of 18 to 29, 42 percent of them reported anxiety symptoms and 36 percent of them experienced symptoms of depression.

While older people are more at risk of having complications from the virus, only 11 percent of Americans ages 80 and older reported symptoms of anxiety and 9 percent reported depression symptoms.

The data also show that residents of Mississippi experienced the highest amount of symptoms of anxiety and depression of all the states in the U.S. with over 40 percent.

US Census Bureau

The survey also measured the pandemic's effects on employment, household finances, education and health. In the most recent data release, 1 million households were contacted between May 7 and 12, and more than 42,000 responded, the Washington Post reported.

"It's been a problem many have been studying with no clear answers — whether it's social media or the way this generation was reared or just a greater willingness to talk about their problems. What's worrying is the effect this situation is clearly having on young adults," Maria A. Oquendo, a psychiatry professor at the University of Pennsylvania told the Washington Post.

Nearly half of people who are sheltering in place said that the pandemic has increased their stress or worry, according to a new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation. The majority of people who text to the Crisis Text Line — 84 percent — say they are experiencing stress related to COVID-19, as of April 20. And an alarming projection from the national public health group Well Being Trust estimates that 75,000 Americans could die from drug or alcohol misuse and suicide related to COVID-19.

New York Hospital medical workers
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Dr. Kevin Gilliland, a clinical psychologist and director of Innovation360, an outpatient resource center, and member of PEOPLE’s Health Squad, said earlier this month that he’s seen an increased need for help from his longtime patients and from new sufferers.

“There are a lot more people that need counsel and guidance,” he tells PEOPLE. “You’re having feelings of isolation and loneliness like you’ve never had before. Everybody’s psychological health has taken a hit.”

There are a few likely reasons for the increase in mental health struggles. There are the obvious — grief for those who have died or contracted the virus, unemployment, financial concerns, anxiety about the future — and reasons that may seem minor, but have a significant effect, including increased isolation as people shelter at home, along with the loss of routines and expected events.

Nurses get married in Times Square
Meagan Rachman, Rachman Photography

“Isolation, which is also disconnection from other people, will unravel us psychologically very quickly,” Gilliland says. “I think we've all been surprised by it. And routines are incredibly important to us.”

“There are folks that have never struggled like this that are, and then there are those that have struggled before that are really having a difficult time,” he continues. “Those that haven't ever struggled like this are just starting to realize, ‘Wow, I didn't realize how important these things were for me.’ ”

To ease these mental health struggles, therapy may be the key for some people. Most therapists are doing sessions over video or phone, and may offer discounts for people without insurance.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.