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November 18, 2022

Mental health care in America, in 5 charts

Daily Briefing

    Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, psychologists have reported a steady increase in their workload and persistent burnout amid rising demand for mental health treatment across a wide range of demographics, according to the American Psychological Association's (APA) 2022 Covid-19 Practitioner Impact Survey.

    Demand for mental health services remains high

    For the survey, APA evaluated the ways psychologists' work has changed since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The survey, which has been conducted annually since 2020, was sent to around 62,900 active licensed psychologists who hold a doctorate degree in the United States. It was distributed between Sept. 20 and Oct. 7, 2022. In total, 2,295 psychologists responded to the survey.

    According to the survey, overall demand for mental health treatment remains high in 2022. While psychologists reported a slight decrease in demand for anxiety and depression treatment in 2022, 79% of psychologists reported an increase in anxiety disorders among patients, 66% reported an increase in depressive disorders.

    Meanwhile, demand for treatment for trauma- and stressor-related disorders, obsessive-compulsive and related disorders, and substance-related and addictive disorders increased in 2022. Notably, 65% of psychologists reported an observed increase in symptom severity among patients in 2022.

    In addition, the report found that roughly one in five psychologists reported an increased demand for mental health treatment in at least one racial or ethnic group in the past 12 months, including Arab American, Middle Eastern or North African patients (19%), Asian or Asian American patients (18%), Black or African American patients (21%), patients of Latino/a/x or Spanish origin (20%), and biracial/multiracial patients (20%).

    However, just 29% of psychologists reported an increase in demand among white patients in the last 12 months, down from 42%.

    Among all age groups, the largest reported increase in patients was among adolescents ages 13 to 17, with 46% of psychologists reporting increases in the past 12 months and 51% reporting increases since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition, psychologists reported large increases in patients ages 18 to 25 (40%) and children under 13 years old (38%) in the past 12 months.

    Psychologists also reported patient increases among transgender and gender nonconforming populations (38%), populations living with chronic illnesses (35%), populations living with chronic pain (31%), and unemployed populations (27%) during the past 12 months. Forty-six percent of psychologists also reported an increase in the number of health care workers seeking treatment since the beginning of the pandemic—an increase from 37% in 2021.

    Psychologists report increased workloads and burnout

    According to the report, psychologists' workload and patient load have consistently increased due to the rising demand for mental health treatment. Notably, the percentage of psychologists reporting an increased workload compared with pre-pandemic levels grew from 31% in 2020 to 38% in 2022. In addition, over half of psychologists (53%) said they worked more than they did a year ago.

    As psychologists' workload and patient load have increased, a higher number of psychologists reported struggling to meet their patients' demand for treatment, with 30% in 2020 and 46% in 2022. The share of psychologists who said they agreed or strongly agreed that they felt burned out (45%) resembled the level reported in 2021 (48%), increasing from 41% in 2020.

    Since the pandemic began, 58% of psychologists have transitioned to a hybrid treatment model, seeing some patients in-person and some remotely.

    According to the survey, 96% of psychologists believe that telehealth became a useful tool during the pandemic—and most said they would continue providing telehealth services beyond the pandemic. (American Psychological Association, 2022 Covid-19 Practitioner Impact Survey, accessed 11/17)

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