Studies Highlight Mental Health Effects of COVID-19 Crisis

More people are facing depression, stress, or other mental health challenges as a result of the pandemic, two recent studies found. Many factors are in play, including a person's age, home situation, and job role.

The ongoing COVID-19 crisis is straining Americans’ mental health, according to a pair of recent studies.

One study compared an April survey of more than 2,000 adults with the results of the much larger 2018 National Health Interview survey. Researchers Jean Twenge of San Diego State University and Thomas E. Joiner of Florida State University found that participants in the April survey were eight times as likely as the 2018 participants to meet the criteria for serious mental illness (27.7 percent vs. 3.4 percent) and three times as likely to do so for moderate or serious mental illness ( 70.4 percent vs. 22 percent).

Perhaps most notable, says Twenge, is that the most serious impacts are being felt among younger people, despite evidence that older people face greater health risks from COVID-19.  “It could be because older people are more protected from the economic disruptions of the pandemic,” she wrote in The Conversation. “Younger adults were more likely to lose their jobs as restaurants and stores closed and were more likely to be in a precarious financial position to begin with.”

Meanwhile, in a separate study conducted in April by the Society for Human Resource Management [PDF], about four in 10 responding workers said they felt burned out or emotionally drained because of work. Younger employees, women, and people who live with individuals in vulnerable groups (such as healthcare workers or those with compromised immune systems) were more likely to be affected by mental health issues.

Nearly a quarter of respondents (22 percent) reported having little interest in things, while another quarter (23 percent) said they felt down, depressed, or hopeless.

The type of work a person does could be a factor, the study found. Service-based workers and employees who cannot telecommute reported feeling more stress than others.

“COVID-19 is taking a toll on our minds and emotions in a million little ways,” SHRM President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor Jr., said in comments on the SHRM website. “Now, more than ever, employers should double down against stigmas and guarantee employees know of the resources, benefits, and accommodations available.”

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Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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