Disconnect between increased stress and lower diagnoses rates raises concerns
Pandemic leads to decrease in mental healthcare over 2020 calendar year for children and older adults, says State of the Nation’s Mental Health report
However, diagnoses and treatment for anxiety and PTSD for adults were among the few mental health diagnoses that grew in 2020. Children and older adults appeared to have the largest overall downturn, reporting significantly fewer mental health diagnoses in 2020 compared to 2019. Younger adults, meanwhile, had a smaller than expected increase in mental health diagnoses for the full year of 2020.
These findings, part of a new State of the Nation’s Mental Health report based on
Recent studies have shown that many more adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression. Further, 42 percent of people under 30 years old were experiencing anxiety and depression symptoms, according to a
“What this says to us is that there are many people who may benefit from mental health services, especially children and older adults, who either aren’t being identified or aren’t reaching out to get the help they might need,” said
The results of the study are supported by other
The State of the Nation’s Mental Health report showed the following drops in 2020 rates for those treated for mental health diagnoses compared to those treated in 2019:
- 10 percent overall drop for young children
- 5 percent overall drop for adolescents
- 5 percent overall drop for adults older than 75
- 13 percent drop for young children diagnosed with ADHD
- 8 percent drop for adolescents diagnosed with ADHD
- 8 percent drop in adults older than 75 diagnosed with dementia, and a
- 3 percent drop for both Baby Boomers and adults older than 75 diagnosed for depression.
“While we don’t know for sure why children and older adults had fewer diagnoses, we speculate that they weren’t interacting as often with people in our communities who have increasingly become the starting point for mental health diagnoses,” said Agrawal. “Children involved in distance learning had less face time with teachers, who often recommend testing for mental health or attention concerns, and older adults may not have been able or were more reluctant to see their primary care provider in 2020, which may play a role in the decrease in dementia diagnoses, and perhaps, decreased diagnoses for depression.”
Nearly three out of four mental health specialists and primary care doctors estimated in an
“When people encounter more stress, it’s logical to expect trends for mental health diagnoses to increase. However, for many, such as children who may be learning virtually and isolated seniors — that hasn’t been the case,” said Agrawal. “This subsequent ‘mental health’ pandemic could have impacts for years to come, reinforcing the need for mental health and physical health to be addressed equally and simultaneously.”
On a positive note, nine out of 10 healthcare professionals surveyed said that COVID-19 has made them more aware of the mental health conditions their patients are experiencing. Seventy percent of healthcare professionals said their patients have been more willing to proactively bring up mental health concerns during appointments.
A majority of healthcare professionals said that patients who were already seeking therapy or in a support group prior to the start of the pandemic have more successfully coped with their mental health concerns. And, many noted they are seeing an increased emphasis in patient self-care and better work/life flexibility.
“People in general and young people in particular should not be reluctant to seek mental health help when they need it,” said
Survey and Claims Methodology
The State of the Nation’s Mental Health report is based on claims data from 27 million members in