Mental health disorders are up — and so is traffic about mental health on Google, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and other current events, according to new reports.
As Americans started adjusting to the coronavirus outbreak in early March, mental health experts feared what the repercussions of the pandemic could have on the lives of many. For those who are social distancing in isolation, depression and loneliness were at the forefront of minds everywhere. Studies have shown how loneliness can not only hurt work production, but it can lead people to be more prone to a heart attack or stroke.
When you combine the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement with the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis, you have what experts call the “perfect storm” of mental health concerns.
The American Mental Health Counselors Association released a new report Monday finding that more than 40% of Americans now have an anxiety disorder and depression due to the major events happening around the globe and in the US.
That rise looks gigantic when comparing numbers from 2019, where only 8% of adults had symptoms of anxiety discord while 6% suffered from depression.
The report said that more than 103 million American adults will suffer mental health disorders by the end of 2020, which is a rate that hasn’t been seen previously before.
“The confluence of events this year has created a ‘perfect storm’ that has swamped the mental health and well-being of all people, and especially those who identify as Black Americans,” Angele Moss-Baker, President of the American Mental Health Counselors Association, said in a press release. “The resulting tsunami of mental health concerns requires a comprehensive and integrated policy response with intentional, culturally responsive policy and practices to reduce the negative impacts of racial trauma, discrimination, and oppression while promoting short- and long-term mental health and well-being.”
The American Mental Health Counselors Association report comes after a recent study from reachers at the University of California San Diego and Johns Hopkins University, Barnard College, and Institute for Disease Modeling, found that there have been a record number of searchers on Google about potential anxiety attacks and panic attacks, a direct correlation with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“Traditional public health surveillance lacks the agility to provide on-demand insights. As a result, when public leaders need real time data to inform their responses to COVID-19’s mental health burdens, all that can be mustered is theoretical speculation,” Dr. John W. Ayers said in a statement.
The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that anxiety-related searches were around 11% higher than usual in the 58 days after President Trump declared the outbreak a national emergency in March. Researchers honed in on keywords such as “anxiety” and “panic,” along with a slew of combinations using those words in order to figure out the numbers.
Researchers said there were 3.4 million total searches for anxiety, which is up by about 375,000 than where it usually sits.
“In practical terms, over the first 58 days of the COVID-19 pandemic there were an estimated 3.4 million total searches related to severe acute anxiety in the United States,” Dr. Benjamin Althouse, a Principal Scientist at the Institute for Disease Modeling, said. “In fact, searches for anxiety and panic attacks were the highest they’ve ever been in over 16 years of historical search data.”
What the total fallout on mental health from the COVID-19 pandemic will remain unknown, but researchers said it could take years to fully understand how it has affected people’s mental health.
“It may take years to fully comprehend the societal fallout of COVID-19,” Dr. Adam Poliak from Barnard College said. “With time, we may find that many more wraparound services will be needed to respond to other collateral impacts and our rapid data driven approach could be used for targeting and prioritizing responses to those impacts.”