Americans are more likely to report mental health concerns related to the pandemic than other developed countries, the survey finds

Mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, have increased among Americans over the course of the pandemic.iStock

As the United States works to stop the rise in coronavirus case numbers, behavioral health professionals warn that mental health will continue to deteriorate as a result of the pandemic.

Between March and May, one-third of Americans reported experiencing stress, anxiety and sadness that was difficult to cope with by themselves, according to a survey published this week by the Commonwealth Fund, a foundation focused on promoting a high performing health-care system, and Social Science Research Solutions, a market and survey research firm. The survey, which interviewed 8,259 adults in the U.S. and abroad, found that when compared with other high-income countries such as Canada, Australia, and France, the rate at which Americans experienced mental health symptoms was significantly higher.

Researchers suggested that the country’s lack of universal health insurance coverage, financial difficulties, and leadership response to the pandemic has negatively affected the mental well-being of Americans.

Donna Sudak, professor of psychiatry at Drexel University’s College of Medicine, said that while it’s important to recognize the toll the virus has taken is greater here than in some other countries included in the survey, there are cultural customs that can make coping harder for Americans as well.

“We’re a country that is accustomed to a lot of independence and the ability to be autonomous,” Sudak said. “Many people have a sense of well-being when they can go anywhere they want to. We’re accustomed to the escape value of that, and now that’s gone.”

The survey also found that despite heightened mental health symptoms, Americans are less likely to receive care during the pandemic — just one in three adults reported being able to get help from a professional, compared with one in two adults in Australia and Canada.

“Primary care is often the first point of contact for people with mental health concerns,” Schneider said. “It is the main source of care for common mental health problems like depression and anxiety.”

Sudak also said Americans may hesitate to seek help because mental health care is not covered in the same way other forms of health care by insurers.

“Insurers have traditionally divided mental health and physical health,” Sudak said. “But we know that the body and mind are intertwined.”

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