A new survey from CVS Health and Morning Consult found that mental health concerns continue to rise among U.S. adults across all backgrounds—but an increasing number of Americans said the pandemic made them more comfortable reaching out for mental health support.
Slide deck: The future of behavioral health after over a year of isolation
For the survey, CVS Health and Morning Consult polled 2,209 adults online between April 6 and April 9.
Overall, the survey found that 59% of Americans have experienced concerns about either their own mental health or the mental health of family and friends—a 9-percentage point increase since April 2020.
In addition, 53% of respondents said they were more comfortable seeking care and resources for their own mental health after hearing about other people's challenges.
In general, 56% of respondents said society has become more comfortable engaging in mental health discussions since the pandemic began. Similarly, 58% said society has become more comfortable using digital tools to improve mental health, and 63% agreed that society has become more comfortable using telemedicine for therapy.
Notably, the survey found that some groups were facing greater increases in mental health concerns than others, including members of the LGBTQIA+ community, young adults, Black individuals, and respondents ages 65 and over.
In particular, the survey found that 57% of LGBTQIA+ respondents expressed concerns over their own mental health—a 20-percentage point increase compared with other respondents. Seventy-four percent of adults ages 18-34 said they were concerned for their own metal health or the mental health of family or friends—marking a 12-percentage point increase over two years ago.
In addition, Black Americans experienced an 11-percentage point increase in mental health concerns since the pandemic began.
Four in 10 respondents ages 65 and older said they experienced mental health concerns for themselves, family, or friends—a 10-percentage point increase compared with two years ago.
The survey also found that while 74% of employed adults agreed that employers should offer employees resources and access to mental health services, just 35% of employed adults said they would feel comfortable discussing mental health with a colleague. In-person doctors' visits (71%), conversations with close friends (70%), in-person visits with mental health professionals (70%), and discussions with family members (64%) were the most commonly cited settings in which people felt comfortable discussing mental health.
According to Healthcare Finance News, the study's findings signal not only an increase in the amount of mental health concerns among certain populations of Americans, but also an increase in the willingness to reach out for care. In recent years, telehealth has increased many people's willingness to seek treatment.
The rise of telemedicine and digital tools aimed at mental health treatment has increased access to and convenience of mental health care—making it a great option for individuals who are hesitant to receive in-person care, CVS Health said in a news release.
"Despite the longstanding stigma and other challenges in mental health, there is a clear shift taking place through the power of technology," said CVS Health president and CEO Karen Lynch. "CVS Health provided 10 million virtual mental health visits last year, compared to 20,000 prior to the pandemic, which is enabling us to meet the growing demand brought on by COVID-19. We are firmly committed to developing new programs and resources that help make mental health care more routine, convenient and accessible for all communities."
According to Cara McNulty, president of behavioral health and mental well-being at CVS Health, these widespread increases in mental health concerns are driving investments in mental health care for both patients and the company's own employees.
"The impact of isolation, loss, grief and burnout will effect of our mental health for years to come," McNulty said. "As a result, we continue to expand services and resources to meet the long-term needs of communities, workforces – including our own – and loved ones to make gains on our goal to reduce suicide attempts 20 percent among our membership by the year 2025, which is an imperative." (Minemyer, Fierce Healthcare, 5/2; Lagasse, Healthcare Finance News, 5/2; PR Newswire, 5/2)
The Covid-19 pandemic is rapidly increasing the need for behavioral health services. But there are significant gaps and barriers that stand in the way of people getting the help they need. Download our take to learn how health systems can prioritize addressing the immediate needs of both staff and patients, especially those with preexisting behavioral health needs or comorbid conditions.
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