Brief Examines the COVID-19 Crisis’ Implications for Americans’ Mental Health

Nearly half (45%) of adults across the country say that worry and stress related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic are hurting their mental health, an early sign that the health and economic crises is likely to increase mental health problems and further stretch the system’s capacity.

A new issue brief explores how the crises and related measures to protect public health, including social distancing, business and school closures, and shelter-in-place orders, are likely to affect Americans in different circumstances, including those already living with, or at risk for, mental illness or substance use disorder.

Drawing on data from the KFF Health Tracking Poll and other relevant research, the brief finds:

  • People who said they were “sheltering in place” in late March were more likely to report negative effects on their mental health than those who were not. Since then, more states have imposed and extended stay-at-home orders so they affect nearly the entire country.
  • Some populations, including older adults, adolescents, and parents with children younger than 18, may be particularly at risk for poor mental health consequences of social distancing policies. A broad body of research links social isolation and loneliness to both poor mental and physical health.
  • Building on research showing poor mental health outcomes associated with economic stress, people who have experienced job or income loss due to the coronavirus crisis are more likely than others to say that the current crisis is harming their mental health.