Healthline Mental Health Index: Week of May 24 — U.S. Population

While the pandemic continues and states begin reopening businesses, the data has remained stable in the past month overall. Two out of five Americans continue to express concern for their health and their main question remains how seriously they could get sick if they contracted the virus. The percentage who exhibit signs of anxiety and depression, as measured by the PHQ-4 scale*, remains steady and elevated compared to a month ago. We continue to see differences in how the coronavirus is affecting subgroups of the population, including people living with a health condition and minorities. 

Key Findings

  • Health status: 40% of U.S. adults express concerns for their health and this percentage is virtually flat compared to 43% a month ago. 

    • People living with a health condition are most affected with 46% telling us they are concerned about their health in relation to the virus compared to 30% of people without a health condition. This is virtually unchanged vs. a month ago.

    • People living in the Midwest appear to be somewhat more impacted with 44% reporting some concerns in the most recent week vs. 40% of people living in the South and 39% of those in the West and Northeast. Levels of concern are similar to what they were a month ago across all regions with the exception of the Northeast, which shows a marked improvement (39% vs. 46%).

  • Health questions: The percentage of Americans with health questions and concerns remains relatively flat or declining slightly across all topics, with the largest percentage decline (-4%) for questions about what to do when feeling symptoms. People’s main question remains how seriously they could get sick if they contracted the virus.

  • Mental health: Anxiety and depression levels remain unchanged with 45% of the U.S. population falling out of the normal range on the PHQ-4 scale*. This percentage is higher among people living with a health condition at 48% compared to 37% among those who don’t have a health condition.


Differences By Ethnic Groups 

HEALTH STATUS: Our data shows comparable levels of concerns for their personal health in relation to COVID-19 between Hispanic, Black, and White Americans with 37%, 40%, and 41% respectively reporting concerns in the week of May 24. However, we see differences in the percentage who say they were personally affected by the virus, either because they are feeling symptoms, tested positive, or are in quarantine after having contracted the virus or having been in contact with someone who has the virus: 9% of Hispanic, 7% of Black, and 4% of White Americans.  

MENTAL HEALTH: Levels of anxiety and depression remain stable compared to a month ago and continue to be higher among Hispanic Americans with 52% outside of the normal range on the PHQ-4 scale* compared to 41% of Black Americans and 43% of White Americans. 

INFORMATION NEEDS: Data collected as part of YouGov’s COVID-19 tracker in the week of May 24 highlights gaps in information needs with 36% of Hispanic and 34% of Black Americans reporting that they are either unsure if they have enough information or don’t have enough information about what to do if they suspect they might have COVID-19, compared to only 20% of White Americans. 

Black Americans appear particularly more interested in understanding the experiences of other people who have contracted the virus compared to Hispanic and White Americans (24% vs. 17% and 13% respectively). 

Finally, 30% of Hispanic and 22% of Black Americans reported they either distrust or don’t know whether they can trust what healthcare professionals say about the COVID-19 situation, compared to 15% of White Americans.

Supporting Graphs

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*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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