As September ends, there have been more than 33 million recorded cases of COVID-19, with more than seven million of them coming from the United States alone. Aside from the setback experienced by the American people in terms of livelihood, healthcare, and education, the coronavirus pandemic has also severely affected the mental health of Americans.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have reported increasing cases in isolation, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts. To better understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, below are the statistics as reported by the CDC and other independent studies:

Daily Life In Los Angeles Amid Coronavirus Outbreak
(Photo: Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 22: A Covid-19 update poster on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills during the COVID-19 lockdown on April 22, 2020, in Beverly Hills, California. COVID-19 has spread to most countries around the world, claiming over 175,000 lives with infections over 2.5 million people.

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Almost 1 in 3 Americans Experience Anxiety or Depression

In a survey from the CDC during the last week of June, between the 24th and the 30th, as much as 40 percent, or four out of every ten people, have reported struggles with mental health or substance abuse. Almost 31 percent of adults surveyed have reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, 25 percent of the respondents reporting anxiety while 24 percent reported depression.

These figures represent a drastic increase compared to around 8 percent of adults reporting anxiety and 6 percent reporting depression around the same period last year. There are varying combinations of factors depending on the group, with separate studies monitoring US graduate students and those that had to work from home following social distancing orders. In the end, these studies point to one thing - a near-universal increase in cases of anxiety and depression.

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An unexpected response, however, came from older people with these preexisting conditions. A study covering four American and one Canadian institute found that older people with major depressive disorders generally reported no increase in their depression and anxiety in the middle of the pandemic. According to Dr. Helen Lavretsky, from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), participants told them that "coping with chronic depression taught them to be resilient" with the new normal.

A Post-COVID Substance Abuse and Suicide Problem

Even problems from coping with the supposed new normal, such as substance abuse and having suicidal thoughts, have been on the rise with the pandemic. The last CDC report, also from the same June 24 to 30 period, showed 13 percent more adults reporting starting or even increasing their substance use, while 11 percent or one in every ten Americans have given serious thoughts on suicide.

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The CDC notes that these suicidal tendencies are amplified among minorities such as Hispanics (18.6%) and Black (15.1%), as well as essential workers such as the medical frontliners  (21.7%) and those self-reported unpaid caregivers for the elderly (30.7%).

Other studies support that healthcare professionals, most of them tasked to work in response to the pandemic, have experienced mental stress and burnout. These are usually associated with increased workloads during the height of the pandemic. Even worse, there have been cases of discrimination against healthcare workers all over the world - mostly Asian nations like Nepal, Japan, and the Philippines.

In the United States, a sharp increase in suicide cases was found among the soldiers serving in the US Army. From the start of the pandemic lockdowns in March, up until August 31, the Wall Street Journal reported 144 soldiers in active duty killing themselves, almost twice from 88 servicemen recorded in the same time in 2019. Officials believed that isolation led to increased stress levels across the armed forces, amplified by extensive bans on travel.

To help alleviate these problems, the CDC has updated its webpage for support - containing numbers and hotlines people can call in the event that the overwhelming pandemic stress triggers fear, anxiety, the need for unregulated substance use, or even suicidal thoughts. It includes hotlines for the Disaster Distress Helpline, the National Prevention Lifeline, as well as a directory of federally qualified health centers.


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