Although there are glaring racial discrepancies, new data indicates that the proportion of American adults who have recently obtained mental health care has increased during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a report released on Wednesday by the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the proportion of U.S. adults who reported receiving any treatment for their mental health over the previous 12 months increased from 19.2% in 2019 to 20.3% in 2020 and then to 21.6% in 2021. The statistics are based on information from the National Health Interview Survey, where “any mental health treatment” is defined as getting counselling or therapy, taking a mental health prescription, or both.
In 2021, adults between the ages of 18 and 44 had the highest share of adults who had recently received mental health treatment, at more than 23%, compared to other age groups in the analysis. This is a significant change from 2019, when that age group had the lowest share of adults who had recently received treatment, at 18.5%. In 2021, 28.6% of women and 17.8% of males in that age range had undergone therapy in the previous 12 months.
The percentage of persons 45 to 64 who had undergone mental health treatment in the previous year remained largely stable over the course of three years, reaching 21.2% in 2021 as opposed to 20.5% in 2020 and 20.2% in 2019. Additionally, there was little change in the percentage of persons 65 and older who had undergone mental health care, which reached 19.4% in 2019 and 18.9% in 2021.
In 2021, among adults aged 18 to 44, more than 30% of white people had gotten treatment for mental health difficulties in the previous year, compared to 14.8% of Black adults, 12.8% of Hispanic adults, and 10.8% of Asian adults.
Asian adults showed the most rise in treatment use among all racial or ethnic groups within that age bracket, with an 80% increase from 6% in 2019 to 10.8% in 2021. While the share of Hispanic adults increased from 11.7% in 2019 to 11.8% in 2020 and 12.8% in 2021, the share of white adults increased by approximately 28% during that same time period, from 23.8% to 30.4%.
According to the study, the proportion of Black adults aged 18 to 44 who had recently undergone treatment increased from 12.4% in 2019 to 17% in 2020 before falling to 14.8% in 2021.
The report’s findings coincide with general recognition that the COVID-19 epidemic has contributed to many people’s worsening mental health, even though it does not expressly mention the pandemic as a reason why they sought therapy.
According to a study published in The Lancet last October, the number of cases of serious depression and anxiety disorders worldwide is expected to rise by more than 25% by the year 2020. According to a different CDC analysis released in the spring of 2021, between August 2020 and February 2021, the proportion of American adults reporting recent symptoms of an anxiety or depressive disorder increased from 36.4% to 41.5%, while the proportion reporting they had not recently received the necessary mental health counselling or therapy increased from 9.2% to 11.7%.
According to survey findings released by the American Psychological Association in October of last year, 8 out of 10 psychologists who treat anxiety disorders and 7 out of 10 psychologists who treat depressive disorders both reported experiencing an increase in demand since the pandemic began.
The association’s CEO, Arthur Evans, said in a statement that the statistics “highlight what we have been saying since the early days of the pandemic — we are facing a mental health tsunami.” “To increase access to different levels of care, we must invest in screening, prevention, and creative interventions in addition to continuing to support treatment via telehealth.”