Health Literacy,  News

Why the Virus Isn’t the Only Health Concern Related to COVID-19

Mask Coronavirus Subway Anxiety

As the death toll from the novel coronavirus continues to rise in the United States, it’s understandable that so much energy has been devoted to detailing the negative health effects the virus can cause, which could possibly include long-term respiratory problems in those who manage to survive it.

But a new report is revealing another potentially tragic side to this pandemic — widespread mental health issues.

Anxiety on the Rise

Ann Steele, the chief author of the analysis, said her team’s analysis found that average positive daily screenings for severe anxiety rose by more than 34% between January and March 2020, as quarantines and stay-home orders began to go into effect across the U.S.

Anxiety and stress that come from shelter-in-place orders are being further compounded by the expanding economic crisis, which has left tens of millions out of work. The analysis also found that for every percentage point increase in the jobless rate, a 3.5% rise in opioid addiction has been reported.

A mental health hotline operated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has seen a spike in calls — a nearly 900% increase over normal call volume, and alcohol sales have risen across the country, with sales of wine and spirits increasing by about 27%, according to data from Nielsen.

“The coronavirus crisis has created a perfect storm. Many of us are stuck inside our homes, taking on tasks we’re untrained for, like attempting to educate our children or working from home offices,” Steele said. “And that’s in a best-case scenario where severe economic crisis hasn’t struck. So not only are we being asked to change almost everything about our daily lives, for millions of us, we now have to add job loss on top of all of it. Especially for people who are prone to poor mental health, there’s no doubt this virus is a recipe for disaster.”

Mental Health in the U.S. Before COVID-19

In addition to digging into the impact of coronavirus on people’s mental health, the study also included an analysis of mental health statistics across the U.S. before the pandemic began this year.

Among other notable findings, the report found:

  • Idaho has the highest rate of mental illnesses, with 25% of adults reporting having a mental health condition.
  • New Jersey has the lowest rate of mental illness, 16.2%.
  • The District of Columbia (11.6%) has the highest rate of substance abuse, and Georgia (6.3%) the lowest.
  • 6% of adults in Utah reported having suicidal thoughts.

Steele, the editor-in-chief of, an online resource for clinical psychology students, noted that all signs point to a serious crisis brewing in mental health as a result of the pandemic, but that for those who are having a hard time coping, simple strategies may help.

“In many places across the country, the state of mental health wasn’t exactly great before this virus, and we’re already seeing compelling evidence that things are getting much worse. It’s not surprising that people would struggle with their mental health in the face of this crisis, and people who are struggling need to understand that it’s not a failure on their part. As the CDC has outlined, making time for relaxation and communicating frequently with your community can be invaluable in keeping your mental state healthy as we weather the storm.”

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Zara Jones is a valued contributor to various CosmoBC's blogs.

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