Aside from killing more than 900,000 Americans to date and wreaking havoc on the country’s economy, the COVID-19 pandemic has also taking a heavy toll on mental health. That’s according to data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics, showing that more than 4 in 10 U.S. adults had developed symptoms of depression or anxiety by the end of 2020, a sharp increase over the results of a comparable survey conducted before the onset of the pandemic in 2019.
The latest findings are derived from the Household Pulse Survey, which has been launched to produce data on the social and economic impacts of Covid-19 on American households. Since April 2020, tens of thousands of Americans have been asked to complete the web survey in order to "gauge the impact of the pandemic on employment status, consumer spending, food security, housing, education disruptions, and dimensions of physical and mental wellness." Among other things, respondents were asked to report how often they have felt down, depressed, hopeless or anxious in the last week, how often they have been unable to stop worrying or shown little interest or pleasure in doing things – all symptoms that have been shown to be associated with diagnoses of generalized anxiety disorder or major depressive disorder.
As the following chart shows, the share of respondents showing signs of anxiety or depression has roughly quadrupled compared to results obtained before the pandemic, with mental health issues particularly widespread towards the end of 2020.