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Concern and anxiety surrounding COVID-19 remain high among Americans, with more people reporting pandemic effects on mental health this year than last year and parents concerned about mental health. their children. results of a new survey by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) show.
While the overall level of anxiety has declined from last year’s APA survey, “the degree to which anxiety still reigns is worrisome,” said APA President Jeffrey Geller, MD , MPH. Medscape Medical News.
The results of the latest survey were presented at the 2021 Annual Meeting of the American Virtual Psychiatric Association and were based on an online survey conducted from March 26 to April 5 in a sample of 1,000 adults over the age of 18. years.
Serious mental health success
In the new survey, approximately 4 out of ten Americans (41%) report being more anxious than last year, just over 60%.
Young adults aged 18 to 29 (49%) and Hispanics / Latinos (50%) are more likely to report being more anxious now than they were a year ago. Those aged 65 and over (30%) are less likely to say they feel more anxious than last year.
The latest survey also shows that Americans are more anxious for family and loved ones to receive COVID-19 (64%) than for catching the virus themselves (49%).
Concern about the recruitment of COVID-19 by relatives and loved ones has increased since last year’s survey (conducted in September 2020), from 56% to 64% today. Hispanics / Latinos (73%) and African Americans / Blacks (76%) are more anxious about COVID-19 than whites (59%).
In the new survey, 43% of adults report that the pandemic has had a serious impact on their mental health, compared to 37% in 2020. Younger adults are more likely than older adults to report serious effects on their mental health. mental health.
Slightly fewer Americans report that the pandemic now affects their day-to-day lives compared to a year ago, such as trouble sleeping (19% less than 22%), difficulty concentrating (18% less than 20%) and fight more with loved ones (16% less than 17%).
The percentage of adults consuming more alcohol or other substances / drugs than normal increased slightly since last year (from 14% to 17%). In addition, 33% of adults (40% of women) claim to gain weight during the pandemic.
Call to action
More than half of adults (53%) with children say they are concerned about their children’s mental state and nearly half (48%) say the pandemic has caused mental health problems for one or more of their children, including children under 29% and major problems for 19%.
More than a quarter (26%) of parents have sought professional mental health help for their children due to the pandemic.
Nearly half (49%) of parents of children under the age of 18 say their child has received help from a mental health professional since the onset of the pandemic; 23% received help from a primary care professional, 18% from a psychiatrist, 15% from a psychologist, 13% from a therapist, 10% from a social worker and 10 % of a school counselor or school psychologist.
More than one in 5 parents reported difficulty scheduling their child’s appointments with a mental health professional.
“This survey shows that as vaccines become more widespread, Americans remain concerned about the mental state of their children,” Geller said in a press release.
“This is a call to action for policymakers, who must remember that in our recovery from COVID-19 there is no health without mental health,” he added.
Just over three-quarters (76%) of respondents say they have been or intend to get vaccinated; 22% say they have no intention of getting vaccinated; and 2% didn’t know it.
For those who do not intend to get vaccinated, the main concern (53%) is about the side effects of the vaccine. Other reasons for not getting vaccinated are believing that the vaccine is not effective (31%), believing that vaccine manufacturers are not honest about what it contains (27%) and fear / anxiety about needles (12%).
Resilience a finite resource
Faced with the comments, Samoon Ahmad, MD, a professor in the Department of Psychiatry at New York’s Grossman School of Medicine, said it’s not uncommon for Americans to suffer more anxiety than normal.
“The home of the Census Bureau Pulse survey has shown that anxiety and depression levels have remained above normal since the pandemic began. That 43% of adults now say the pandemic has had a serious impact on their mental health seems to be in line with what this survey has been reporting for more than a year, “Ahmad, who heads the hospital psychiatry unit at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, he said Medscape Medical News.
He believes there are several reasons why anxiety levels remain high. One of the reasons is something he has noticed among his patients for years. “Most people struggle with anxiety especially at night when the noise and distractions of contemporary life go away. This is the time for introspection,” he explained.
“Quarantine has been like a long night because the distractions that are common in the so-called ‘rat race’ have been relatively off for the last 14 months. is leading to feelings of anxiety as people use their time alone to assess their careers and social life and begins to worry about some of the decisions that have brought them to this point in their lives. Ahmad said.
The other finding from the APA survey, which says people are more concerned about catching the virus by their loved ones than a year ago, is not surprising either, Ahmad said.
“While it looks like we’ve turned the corner in the United States and the worst of the pandemic is behind us, the increase from about November to March this year was geographically wider than previous waves, and I think that made the severity of the virus much more real for people living in communities that had been spared serious outbreaks during the waves we saw in the spring and summer of 2020, ”he said. dir Ahmad Medscape Medical News.
“There is also a greater concern about the variants and the effectiveness of the vaccine in treating these variants. Those who have families in other countries where the virus is increasing, such as India or parts of Latin America, they probably also experience additional stress and anxiety. ” he pointed out.
While the findings of the new APA polls are not surprising, they are still “deeply worrying,” Ahmad said.
“Resistance is a finite resource and people can only get so much stress before their mental health starts to suffer. For most people, this will not lead to any kind of excessive nervous breakdown. Instead, you may notice that they are more irritable than they were before, that they do not sleep particularly well, or that they have an annoying feeling of discomfort and stress when doing activities they used to consider normal, with friends or going to work, Ahmad said.
“Overcoming this type of anxiety and re-adjusting to social situations will require more time for some people than for others, and that’s perfectly natural,” said Ahmad, founder of the Integrative Welfare Center in the city of Nova. York.
“I don’t think it’s smart to try to put a limit on what constitutes a normal time to readjust, and I think everyone in the field of mental health should avoid pathologizing any persistent feelings of discomfort. No one has. of being medicated or diagnosed with a mental illness because they are nervous about entering public spaces immediately after a pandemic. We need to show a lot of patience and encourage people to readjust to their pace for the foreseeable future, “Ahmad said .
Geller and Ahmad have not revealed any relevant financial relationship.
2021 Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association (APA). May 2, 2021. Poll