Anxiety and Mental Health: How American Adults Face Another Pandemic

“Until people are feeling safe and connected to others, anxiety will likely remain high,” says author and psychologist Dr. Twenge. Although this quote was published in 2000, the sentiment remains the same.

Existing during a world-wide pandemic is unprecedented, especially because anyone who has lived through a pandemic would be over 100 years old at this point in time. It’s almost impossible to predict what the world will look like after COVID-19 has been eradicated with a “cure” or a vaccine. It’s even harder to imagine how people will feel, because during the first few weeks of the pandemic and its insanely quick spread, anxiety levels rose to new highs.

Anxiety, as a clinical mental health issue, has been on the rise amongst adults for years. Studies show that children, today, report higher levels of anxiety in the 21st century than patients who were committed to a psychiatric mental health institution in the 1950s. This particular study by the APA was commissioned in 2000 — 20 years ago at this point. That leads professionals to believe anxiety levels are still on the rise, and are likely at a critically high rate. In 2018, a report showed that 39% American adults were more anxious than the year before.

Interestingly enough, put together a survey that looks at the average American anxiety level based on a handful of factors like relationships, financial concerns, health, and more. In 2018, the national average, on the level of 0-100, came out as a 51 which is 5 points higher than the national average in 2017. What is astounding is that anxiety is not biased against any demographic, although some groups of people are affected more so than others. For instance, baby boomers report a higher level of anxiety overall than other generations. But women are more anxious than men in 2018 — something a recent study shows has changed over the last two years.

What’s interesting about the state (and rate) of anxiety in the United States is that COVID-19 has, of course, turned things around on their head. Baby boomers reported a lower level of anxiety, according to this survey, prior to COVID-19’s appearance whereas gen x, gen z, and millennials seem to have a similar level of anxiety. However, once the pandemic was officially declared a pandemic and the shelter-in-place orders were dispersed, it is Millennials who’ve seen the highest rise in individuals experiencing anxiety. Baby boomers and millennials share a 2-point rise in anxiety (on a 1-10 scale).

One third of the American population is experiencing clinical levels of anxiety during COVID-19. While it’s hard to focus, these days, professionals are there to help. If you are experiencing anxiety, the CDC shares resources on who (and how) to contact for help.

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