Healthline Mental Health Index: Week of April 19 — U.S. Population

The percentage of Americans who are fearful of contracting the new coronavirus has remained high and constant over the past 4 weeks. Similarly, the percentage exhibiting signs of anxiety and depression shows no sign of decline. Different health questions and concerns emerged in the past 2 weeks.

Key Findings

  • Fear of contracting the virus: 3 out of 5 U.S. adults remain scared about contracting the virus based on the sixth wave of YouGov’s tracker. This figure has remained stable over the past month.

  • Mental health: Anxiety and depression levels remain elevated with 49% of the U.S. population falling out of the normal range on the PHQ-4 scale which provides a validated measure of anxiety and depression*, and 21% being in the moderate to severe range.

  • Health questions: The top health questions among the U.S. population are “how seriously could I get sick” and “how to avoid getting sick.” There was no change in people’s top health questions for the week of April 19 compared to the previous 2 weeks.

  • Information gaps: A few changes emerged looking at key gaps in content coverage, with an increase in the percentage of people who feel it’s difficult to find answers to:

    • how to deal with isolation (+9%)

    • who is at higher risk for the virus (+8%)

    • grief and trauma counseling (+6%)

Supporting Graphs

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The chart below shows what people’s key health questions and concerns are, and among those who reported having these questions, which ones they feel are most difficult to find answers to at this time. 

Looking at gaps in coverage over the last 3 weeks, we see increases in three key content areas, as noted below: how to deal with isolation, who is at higher risk for contracting the virus, and grief and trauma counseling.

HL-Mental-Health-Graph-USPop_Week-4.19websafe-USpop2.jpg

Increased Anxiety Levels Among Men

While women remain more fearful and somewhat more anxious than men (64% of women are fearful vs. 55% of men based on the sixth wave of YouGov’s tracker; 23% of women show signs of moderate to severe depression vs. 19% of men as measured using the PHQ-4 scale*), the trend points to an increase in anxiety among men: 55% of men report being fearful of contracting the virus in wave six vs. 50% 2 weeks before. The percentage of men who report signs of anxiety grew from 15% in the last wave to 22% this week based on the PHQ-4 scale*. In comparison, this percentage among women declined from 34% to 27% in the same time period.

*For reference, the four-item Patient Health Questionnaire-4 (PHQ-4) is a brief and validated questionnaire that consists of a two-item depression scale and a two-item anxiety scale. People are asked to indicate how often in the last 2 weeks they have been bothered by “feeling nervous, anxious, or on edge”; “not being able to stop or control worrying”; “little interest or pleasure in doing things”; and “feeling down, depressed, or hopeless.” The first two items provide a measure of anxiety, and the last two a measure of depression. Responses are scored from 0 to 3 with responses “not at all” scored as 0, “several days” as 1, “more than half the days” as 2, and “nearly every day” as 3. Scores equal or greater than 3 across the first 2 questions suggest anxiety. Scores equal or greater than 3 across the last two questions suggest depression. Total scores on the PHQ-4 scale are determined by adding together the scores of each of the four items and are rated as normal (0-2), mild (3-5), moderate (6-8), and severe (9-12).

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