Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Most Young Adults Have "Mental Health Symptoms"

The mental health of millions of Americans has been adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Young adults have been hit the hardest. This makes sense, since young adults are the ones whose lives have been disrupted the most. Their college classes are remote, their career prospects put on hold, their friends and potential romantic partners socially distanced. 

The Census Bureau has been tracking the mental health of the population in its biweekly Household Pulse Survey. A CDC analysis of the survey's mental health data reveals two worrisome facts: the mental health of Americans was not all that great in August, and between August and February it has gotten worse.

Here's what the Household Pulse Survey asks: How often in the past seven days have you felt 1) nervous, anxious, or on edge; 2) unable to stop or control worrying; 3) little interest or pleasure in doing things; 4) down, depressed, or hopeless? Respondents who reported experiencing one or more of these feelings on most of the past seven days were classified as having mental health symptoms. 

In August 2020, a substantial 36.4 percent of adults aged 18 or older were classified as having mental health symptoms, according to the CDC study. By February 2021, the figure had grown to 41.5 percent—a statistically significant increase. 

Symptoms of anxiety/depressive disorder during past 7 days, January 20—February 1, 2021
Total, aged 18-plus: 41.5% 
Aged 18 to 29: 57.0% 
Aged 20 to 39: 45.9% 
Aged 40 to 49: 41.1% 
Aged 50 to 59: 41.2% 
Aged 60 to 69: 33.4% 
Aged 70 to 79: 26.3% 
Aged 80-plus: 22.5% 

Mental health problems are particularly severe among 18-to-29-year-olds. Not only are most young adults experiencing mental health symptoms, but the 18-to-29 age group is also the one whose mental health is eroding the fastest. Between August 2020 and February 2021, the percentage of young adults with mental health symptoms grew by 8 percentage points. While the share of the population with mental health symptoms increased in every age group during those months, the rise was largest among 18-to-29-year-olds. It's well past time to open up vaccination sites to all adults, regardless of age, to give young people some hope. 

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