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May 29, 2020

Map: Covid-19's toll on America's mental health

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    Just over a third of Americans say they are experiencing symptoms of clinical anxiety or depression amid the country's new coronavirus epidemic, according to a recent survey conducted by CDC's National Center for Health Statistics and the Census Bureau.

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    For the survey, the Census Bureau contacted one million households between May 7 and May 12 to measure how the country's coronavirus epidemic has affected Americans' education, employment, finances, health, and housing. Over 42,000 households responded to the survey. The survey asked respondents four questions very similar to the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-2) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD-2) mental health screening tools used by some primary care doctors to screen for depression and anxiety.

    The survey found that a total of 34.4% of respondents reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety disorder or depressive disorder, with 24.1% reporting symptoms of depression and 30% reporting symptoms of anxiety.

    The rates of reported symptoms of anxiety and depression varied by state from a high of around 48% of people in Mississippi to a low of just over a quarter of Iowans, according to the survey.

    When broken down by age group, rates of reported symptoms of anxiety or depression were highest among those ages 18 to 29, with nearly half reporting that they've experienced such symptoms.

    The survey also found that women were more likely to report experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression than men.


    The findings are in line with research that's suggested more Americans are experiencing anxiety and depression amid the country's coronavirus epidemic, the Washington Post reports. For example, a poll published by the Kaiser Family Foundation in April found that almost half of respondents said the epidemic had impaired their mental health.

    Separately, a survey conducted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in April found that many Americans reported feeling anxious and sad more often last month than they had before the new coronavirus epidemic. The survey also found that many Americans reported discussing mental health more frequently than they had before the epidemic took hold.

    Maria Oquendo, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, said the latest results are "understandable given what's happening" in the country.

    "It would be strange if you didn't feel anxious and depressed. This virus is not like a hurricane or earthquake or even terrorist attack. It's not something you can see or touch, and yet the fear of it is everywhere," she said (Fowers/Wan, Washington Post, 5/26; Perano, Axios, 5/26).

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