Despite Decreasing Stigma, Mental Health Concerns Increasing

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Key Insights

  • A recent survey found that more than half of American adults have experienced mental health concerns for themselves, friends, or family.
  • However, American adults reported a greater openness to discussing mental health, seeking care, and using teletherapy.
  • Nearly three-quarters of employed respondents believe employers should provide “resources and access to mental health services.”


Survey: Mental Health Concerns on the Rise

The majority of American adults have experienced mental health concerns, according to a recent survey by CVS Health and Morning Consult. Fifty-nine percent of Americans — a 9-percent increase since April 2020 — reported “concerns about either their own mental health or that of family, and friends.”

“The impact of isolation, loss, grief and burnout will [have an effect on] our mental health for years to come,” Cara McNulty, President of Behavioral Health and Mental Well-being at CVS Health, said in a press release. McNulty’s comments align with a study published in The Lancet, which observed an association between “more stringent COVID-19 policies,” such as lockdowns, and “poorer mental health.”

Researchers noted that mental health concerns increased “among individuals of all backgrounds,” although certain demographics experienced greater increases. Respondents who identified as LGBTQIA+ expressed concerns at a rate 20 percent higher than other respondents. Nearly three-quarters of adults between the ages of 18 and 34 “experienced mental health concerns for themselves, family, or friends.” Black Americans saw an 11-percent increase in mental health concerns. Respondents ages 65 and older — while reporting less mental health concerns than the overall average — experienced a 10-percent increase over the past two years.

Mental Health Stigma Decreases Amid Increasing Concerns

However, the survey results also indicated a decrease in stigma related to mental health. More than half of respondents felt more open to seeking care after “hearing about other people’s challenges.” The majority of respondents believed that the pandemic has pushed society to become more open to:

  • Engaging in mental health discussions
  • Utilizing digital tools to support mental health
  • Using telehealth for therapy

“Despite the longstanding stigma and other challenges in mental health, there is a clear shift taking place through the power of technology,” CVS Health President and CEO Karen S. Lynch said in a statement. “We are firmly committed to developing new programs and resources that help make mental healthcare more routine, convenient and accessible for all communities.” Beyond supporting mental health, digital tools and telehealth can also help to advance value-based care.

Additionally, 74 percent of employed respondents agreed that employers should offer resources and services for mental health. Data from the Kaiser Family Foundation indicates that roughly one-third of employers are working to increase access to mental health support.

“Many employers have reacted to a pandemic-fueled spike in mental health conditions by adjusting benefits,” Privia Health CEO Shawn Morris wrote in a blog post. “Savvy employers can retool benefit design to prioritize high-value care, lower spending, and retain employees.”

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