PHOENIX — Any high-stress situation can take a toll on one’s mental health, and the coronavirus pandemic presents us with some unique hardships that many of us have never faced before. While Americans remain under quarantine, it’s natural to wonder how social distancing is affecting mental health collectively across the country. A new survey of U.S. adults shows that despite feeling uneasy and anxious, many people remain grateful, hopeful and resilient during this extraordinarily difficult time.
The Harris Poll surveyed 1,055 American adults (aged 18+) on behalf of the University of Phoenix. The questions of the online survey sought to gauge what’s causing people distress during the coronavirus quarantine, and reveal the habits people have picked up to relieve their stress.
People are most worried about their physical and mental health in response to the coronavirus. The top concern of respondents is the health of their loved ones (71%), even more so than their own health (61%). About two in five Americans are afraid of feeling more anxiety as a result of everything going on around them.
Also, feelings of loneliness are at the highest they have ever been for 44% of respondents. Loneliness can lead to mental health issues like depression, especially if the COVID-19 lockdown continues for a while. To that end, one in five adults fear they’ll suffer from a serious mental health condition if social distancing measures remain in place for much longer.
Many Americans are feeling overwhelmed, with 56% of people saying that they have more on their plate now than ever before. Nearly seven in 10 respondents (68%) admit they feel like everything is out of their control. This is quite understandable given the amount of uncertainty in everyone’s lives.
A major source of uncertainty is work and pay-related. One third of Americans don’t know how they will be able to pay their bills during the shutdown. A quarter of respondents fear that they will have to take a pay cut or that they will be forced to work less hours. Even worse, one in five people are worried that they might lose their job — and won’t be able to find another one while everyone is quarantined.
To combat these hardships they are facing, most Americans have been checking in with their loved ones more frequently. Three in five respondents are calling their loved ones regularly throughout the coronavirus lockdown. And, thankfully, many are taking more care of their physical health — 35% of respondents say they have increased the amount they exercise.
Some Americans have added extra safeguards to protect their mental health. About one third of people have been consuming less news since they recognize the unwanted stress it adds to their lives. Thirty percent have been thinking about the future and making plans for when the pandemic is over, and this helps them stay hopeful. Other people have been performing acts of kindness for their friends and neighbors, and it’s a great way to help themselves feel good.
“While many people are currently feeling anxiety, there can be several ways to maintain good mental health by making small behavior changes,” says Dr. Dean Aslinia, counseling department chair at University of Phoenix, in a university release. “Instead of texting or emailing, make a phone call or use video chat to build a more meaningful connection. Build activity in your day by trying something new or setting a goal for yourself to start a new project.”
And of course, if you’re concerned about your physical or mental health, there are a slew of resources available online. Turning to telehealth may feel awkward or uncomfortable at first, but Aslinia says it can be incredibly helpful. “Remember, it is okay to seek professional help, if your negative feelings persist. Many mental health practitioners are offering virtual counseling sessions so you can have someone to talk to without leaving the house,” he says.
The survey was conducted between March 30-31, 2020.