According to a new Gallup poll, America’s mental health has deteriorated to the worst point it has been in two decades.
Only 34% of U.S. adults say their mental health is excellent, down from 43% last year. Experts said that while our mental health has suffered this year likely due to the coronavirus, our physical health hasn’t changed substantially, according to the latest numbers.
However, the 9-point decline in mental health ratings has healthcare officials worried.
“The latest weakening in positive ratings, from a Nov. 5-9 poll, are undoubtedly influenced by the coronavirus pandemic, which continues to profoundly disrupt people’s lives, but may also reflect views of the election and the state of race relations, both of which were on America’s minds this year,” said the Gallup report.
Gallup has conducted the November Health and Healthcare survey annually since 2001, asking Americans to rate their mental or emotional well-being as excellent, good, only fair, or poor. Usually, the readings for excellent and good range from 81% to 89% until this year, when it fell to 76%.
Women, Republicans, independents, and those who do not attend regular religious services had the largest drop in positive ratings, along with white adults, singles, older adults, and lower-income Americans. Democrats and frequent churchgoers had the least change in mental wellness, according to the poll.
The poll, conducted Nov. 5-9, surveyed a random sample of 1,018 adults nationwide. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, acknowledges that the pervasive climate of anxiety, stress, and isolation caused by COVID-19 is harmful to mental health and offers these tips:
- Maintain a routine. If you are not used to working from home, create a teleworking routine that helps you get into the right mindset. Designate a work area and stick to regular working hours. Make sure you shower and dress in the morning and wear casual work clothes — not sweats — to signal the start of the workday.
- Take reasonable precautions, but don’t go overboard. Follow reliable sources of information, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to keep you up to date on health precautions you should be taking. This is important, says NAMI, if you suffer from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder or health anxiety. In other words, if the CDC recommends washing your hands for 20 seconds, don’t make it a minute.
- Find ways to get motivated. If you are prone to depression and are finding it hard to get out of bed in the morning, focus on accomplishing chores or start a project. Exercise is a good mood booster and there are thousands of workout videos online to help you get started.
- Stick to consistent mealtimes. Avoid stress-snacking and eat regular meals to maintain mental and physical equilibrium. Try to eat healthy foods, however, but a freshly baked cookie now and then might just be the comfort food you need right now.
For more tips, check out the NAMI website.
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