Decoding consumer mental health needs


How are you, really? In a world of uncertainty and tension, stressors that were on the rise before COVID-19 have now reached new heights, with added layers of complexities of this new normal. One truth decoded: People are 24% more likely to be stressed from loneliness than the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Healthline wanted to dig into the mental and emotional realities of our site visitors, uncover what consumers really need, and identify ways that we — and our partners — can help. Let’s see what story unfolded.

Living in a lonely world

Life hasn’t been easy in 2020, and it’s no surprise that our recent survey of more than 1,500 people in the United States found that 33% are managing ongoing stress or challenges in their lives. For almost half of them, loneliness is the biggest cause of stress in life overall. So if you’re feeling lonely, well… you’re not alone. 

Others are feeling the brunt of it from the pull on their relationships with other family members. You’ll note, though, that things top of mind in the media today (think: COVID-19, finances and unemployment, social injustice) aren’t as prominent. 


Stressed here and now

But when you shift the framework to think about people who are managing a temporary challenge or stress, that list of stresses flips upside down. What’s driving the uptick in stress levels today? We found 1 in 4 attribute it to the COVID-19 pandemic and 1 in 3 to finances and debts (different than a job loss or job change, which only a quarter felt).

U.S. users are more affected than non-U.S. users by the COVID-19 pandemic (40% vs. 29%), loss of a family member (28% vs. 14%), and loss of a job (26% vs. 13%).

Help me, please 

More than 2 out of 5 people said they’re anxious or depressed nearly every day. That’s a large population in need of support. Learning about new skills and lifestyle changes to improve their mental or emotional health (46%) and understanding their current symptoms (36%) bubble to the top of the list. Consumers have questions and need a trusted resource to provide clarity, insights, and guidance.

Many people are also at this inflection point: Should I seek help from a mental health professional? According to our survey, 1 in 4 said they need the most help with this right now, but myriad reasons hold them back from getting care. 


For those who want to engage with a mental health professional, they’re most concerned with insurance coverage (54%), location (51%), and the professional’s expertise and experience (47%).

Health approach

Everyone’s mental health is a unique journey, and it’s more important than ever for brands and publishers to be aware of all the tips, activities, and interests being used to keep consumers’ minds and bodies in check. “When people engage with valued activities that provide them with a sense of meaning or purpose, referred to as behavioral activation, there is evidence that it helps focus attention away from situations that bring us stress or anxiety,” shared Dr. Matthew Boland. 

Exercise has been found to be the most helpful to date (40%), followed by counseling and therapy (32%) and taking mental health medications (29%). The good news is that consumers have a high interest in learning more about how different tactics can make a mark on their emotional and mental health.

People are raising their hand to learn more about how therapy could help them, and how to start or expand exercise and fitness routines and focus more on nutrition. This is a green light for marketers to invest in creating content and messaging that speaks to these needs.

“People really underestimate the impact that digital media can have. It’s more than just words ⏤ these messages can be transformative for folks who have never heard them before.” — Sam Dylan Finch, mental health advocate and  social media manager for Psych Central, a Healthline Media site

Mental health toolkit

There are many resources and tools available online and IRL, and brands need to continue to pay attention to consumer needs and expectations. Marketers take note: 1 in 4 consumers would find quizzes to assess how they feel the most valuable. Plus, there’s a focus on connecting with others managing similar challenges through online communities and inspirational stories.


How we can work together

We understand that mental health is personal, and there are multiple approaches to care. With consumers’ needs at our core, Healthline Media focuses on creating and evolving transformative content and media solutions to help brands meet people where they are in their mental health journey. Check out some of our latest initiatives:

  • Mental Health Index: Research tracking the emotional impact of COVID-19 on consumers’ emotional health to aid marketers in understanding their audience. 

  • Mental Health: Healthline’s consumer guides and resources to help people care for their total well-being in this challenging time.

  • Men’s Health: Medical News Today’s hub on men’s health with research-backed resources to help men live their healthiest life, mentally and physically.

If you’re eager to learn how your brand can benefit from aligning with mental health programs, and how to collaborate to make an impact, email us today or contact your Healthline Media representative.

Methodology: Survey promoted to site visitors on and among newsletter subscribers between October 5-8, 2020. Total respondents = 5,015 (n=1,559 US)

About Healthline Media

As the #1 health media property in the US, Healthline Media reaches more than 94MM unique visitors each month (Comscore, August 2021). We provide credible health information with a compassionate approach.