The Mental Health Toll of COVID-19

Xiaoyan Zhang

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The coronavirus pandemic has profoundly disrupted Americans’ lives. As COVID-19 continues to overwhelm the country, an increasing share of U.S. adults report symptoms of anxiety and depression. This suggests that a large share of the population may have unmet mental health treatment needs. The figure below shows the percentage of U.S. adults who report needing counseling or therapy from a mental health professional but did not receive it. Data are from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse survey administered from Aug. 19 to Nov. 23, 2020. Nationally, 11.1% of adults reported unmet mental health treatment needs in the most recent period (Nov. 11-23). Rates declined slightly between late September and early October, but then began to increase again, reaching the highest levels reported so far during the Oct. 28-Nov. 9 data collection period. Adults with children in the household consistently reported higher rates of unmet mental health treatment needs compared to those without children in the household. Rising rates of unmet mental health treatment needs suggest a worsening crisis, especially for adults with children in the household.

About the Author
Xiaoyan Zhang ( is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Human Development and Family Science and a Lerner Graduate Fellow at the Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion in the Maxwell School at Syracuse University.