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During pandemic, growth of U.S. adults with mental health issues jumps to 53%

UPDATED: Wed., Sept. 9, 2020

By Linda Searing For the Washington Post

A growing number of U.S. adults are struggling with mental health issues linked to worry and stress over the novel coronavirus, increasing from 32% in March to 53% in July, according to a new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Those experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, for example, reached 40% this summer, up from 11% a year ago. In addition, a similar assessment from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that, by late June, 13% of adults had started or increased alcohol consumption or drug use to help cope with pandemic-related woes, and 11% had seriously considered suicide in the past month – a number that reached 25% among those ages 18 to 24.

Social isolation, loneliness, job loss and economic worries as well as fear of contracting the virus are among factors cited as contributing to people’s mental health problems. Kaiser researchers found that 59% of those who have lost income because of the pandemic experienced at least one adverse effect on their mental health and well-being, as did 62% of those with higher-than-average risk for COVID-19 because of chronic conditions such as lung disease, diabetes or serious heart disease.

Overall, both reports found that negative mental health effects from the stress of coronavirus were more common among women than men. Suicidal ideation, however, was more common among men. Also, the CDC report says that people described as “unpaid caregivers,” meaning they care for other adults at home, are considerably more likely than others to start or increase substance use to cope with coronavirus-related stress or to have suicidal thoughts.

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