Almost a third of Americans report experiencing anxiety, depression, or both amid widespread, pandemic-induced lockdowns and heavy restrictions.
The survey is the latest iteration of an ongoing Census Bureau project tracking the mental health of Americans during the pandemic. The bureau surveyed more than 42,000 people between May 7 and 12, and 34% of respondents’ answers indicate a potential depressive or anxiety disorder. The results suggest that the pandemic and lockdown are taking a significant toll on mental health in the United States, according to The Washington Post.
Half of respondents said they experienced feelings of depression in the past week. The statistic is roughly double the reported number from a 2014 national survey in which people were asked whether they had experienced feelings of depression in the past two weeks, according to WaPo.
While mental health trends in the United States appear to be increasing in recent years, the current crisis has exacerbated those trends. In an average year, roughly 18% of adults ages 18-54 suffer from some type of anxiety disorder, according to Johns Hopkins University. According to the bureau, 28% of Americans across all age groups from 18+ reported symptoms of an anxiety disorder.
Broken down by age, younger generations reported higher levels of depression despite the virus being deadliest to the elderly. Nearly half of adults ages 18-29 reported symptoms of depression or anxiety compared to 18% in the 70-79 age group and 17% for adults ages 80 and above.
According to government data, the coronavirus has killed roughly 100,000 Americans, and the mandated lockdowns to slow the virus’ spread has cost tens of millions of jobs and driven many businesses into bankruptcy. Over 36 million people have lost their jobs or income since mid-March when states began taking strict actions against the pathogen, according to Labor Department data released last week.
Medical professionals have begun calling for reduced restrictions in states still under strict lockdown orders because of the toll that long periods of isolation and lost income is taking on people’s mental health. Doctors at the John Muir Medical Center near San Francisco, Calif., said earlier this week that more people were dying from suicide than from the virus.
“Personally I think it’s time,” said Dr. Mike deBoisblanc, head of the emergency department at Jon Muir. “I think, originally, [the shelter-in-place order] was put in place to flatten the curve and to make sure hospitals have the resources to take care of COVID patients. We have the current resources to do that and our other community health is suffering.”
A team of researchers led by Hoover Institute senior fellow Scott Atlas estimate that the cost of strict regulations has already surpassed the toll the virus has taken in terms of years of human life lost.
“The disease has been responsible for 800,000 lost years of life so far,” the researchers wrote in The Hill on Monday. “Considering only the losses of life from missed health care and unemployment due solely to the lockdown policy, we conservatively estimate that the national lockdown is responsible for at least 700,000 lost years of life every month, or about 1.5 million so far — already far surpassing the COVID-19 total.”
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