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Study Examines Mental Health Impacts Of The Pandemic

One-third (33%) of U.S. adults reported stress, anxiety, and great sadness that was difficult to cope with by themselves, compared to about a quarter or less in other countries.
The Commonwealth Fund
One-third (33%) of U.S. adults reported stress, anxiety, and great sadness that was difficult to cope with by themselves, compared to about a quarter or less in other countries.

A new survey finds COVID-19 is taking a toll on Americans' physical and mental well-being.
The United States has lagged behind other nations in controlling COVID-19, and it’s having an effect on residents beyond the virus itself.

Compared to residents of nine other high-income countries, people in the United States are experiencing greater mental health and economic challenges from COVID-19, and they are less happy with their national leaders, according to a new report from the Commonwealth Fund.

Commonwealth's Reginald Williams notes three major takeaways from the national survey.

"Compared to other countries, the U.S. performs less well. For mental health, one-third of U.S. adults report experiencing mental health concerns, a significantly higher proportion than in other countries. Two, financially. Over 30 percent of Americans face negative economic impacts due to the pandemic, significantly more than in the comparison countries. And three, with respect to national leadership. 30 percent of U.S. adults said the president has done a good or very good job of handling the pandemic."

Survey: Americans are facing greater mental health and economic challenges during #COVID19 and are less happy with national leadership than people in other high-income nations One-third of U.S. adults reported stress, anxiety, and great sadness during #COVID19, compared to about a quarter or less in other high-income countries

The study was conducted from March to May, using responses from 8,259 adults in 10 countries, including Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. Williams says Americans are more likely than people in other countries to report mental health concerns.

"33 percent of people in the united States report experiencing stress, anxiety and great sadness that was difficult to cope with alone since the outbreak started. We found that less than a third of people in the U.S. who wanted to get care were able to get mental health care. On to the financial consequences. At 30 percent, a significantly higher percentage than in any other country, U.S. adults report being unable to pay for basic necessities like food and rent, using up most of their personal savings, or borrowing money or taking out a loan."

Williams notes findings show the U.S. could do more to meet people's mental health care needs along side efforts to address economic concerns.

Commonwealth Fund Senior Vice President for Policy and Research Eric Schneider says mental health and economic challenges Americans are facing can be addressed by social support programs.

"And especially they're important in the midst of a pandemic with a sudden once-in-a-century economic crisis. The first is paid sick leave. Without paid sick leave, people struck by COVID-19 and the larger group of people who need to quarantine to keep their co-workers and families safe, are faced with an impossible decision. Whether to put their family at risk of COVID-19 by continuing to work in order to pay for food rent and utilities, or whether to stay home from work at the risk of losing a job and putting the family at financial risk."

Schneider says universal paid sick leave, extended unemployment insurance and increased funding for child care and education programs would go a long way in helping people get through the pandemic.

New York state Assemblywoman Pat Fahy, a Democrat from the Capital Region’s 109th district, says reopening gyms and fitness centers would benefit physical and mental health.

"We are seeing very troubling trends of weight gains as a result of the coronavirus, as a result of the shutdown, as well as problems with increased depression, anxiety, we're even seeing troubling trends with domestic violence and more. Mental health is a direct benefit of physical health, and I believe we need to look at this in a more holistic fashion."

During a Thursday press call, Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters "now is not the time" to reopen gyms. Fahy believes fitness facilities can be safely opened and pose no more danger than going to a supermarket or big box store.

"I'm urging that this be reevaluated and re-looked at, they are meeting the same protocols that big box stores and shopping malls are meeting with ventilation systems. So we that they are addressing a whole host of safety concerns. And again, we have more than flattened the curve here, it is something that can be closely monitored."

Fahy adds gyms typically require members to check-in, which would expedite contact tracing if that became necessary.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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