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Mental health declined sharply in 2020: study

Yahoo Finance's Kristin Myers and Adriana Belmonte discuss the new study on the sharp decline of mental health in 2020.

Video Transcript

KRISTIN MYERS: And what comes, sadly, as a surprise to no one, a new study shows that 2020 was full of many mental health struggles for Americans. We have Yahoo Finance's Adriana Belmonte here with us to break down the results of that study. Hey, Adriana. This seems very sad, but not unsurprising to me to see some of these findings. What was in this study?

ADRIANA BELMONTE: Yeah, so this was actually a follow-up from a June 2020 study that was done last year to kind of get an idea of how people were faring in the early months of the pandemic. This was done later on in 2020, and things only got worse. 12% of adults reported thinking about suicide within the last month. More than 15% reported substance abuse. And one in 3 adults reported anxiety and depression.

KRISTIN MYERS: So I'm glad that you mentioned that anxiety and that depression piece. Did the study kind of break out some of those struggles that folks were dealing with the most? Was it mostly depression? Was it the loneliness, isolation? Was it anxiety?

ADRIANA BELMONTE: It was anxiety and depression that were the most prevalent. And they actually broke it down by ethnicity as well. And the Hispanic population was overwhelmingly impacted compared to their white counterparts. I mean, for example, 50.8% Hispanics reported anxiety and depression versus only 28% of their white counterparts. 20% were suicidal, and only half of that were reported among their white counterparts.

KRISTIN MYERS: And what about men and women? Because typically, we do see that women tend to trend a little bit higher when suffering with some of these mental health issues, particularly around issues of anxiety and depression. Did they follow the same trend lines as well in this study?

ADRIANA BELMONTE: Yeah, they were actually pretty equal. But, you know, what I thought was most interesting here was that essential workers were significantly more likely to report having some of these symptoms, which, if you think about it, isn't that surprising, because they're the ones on the front lines. They're the ones putting themselves at risk, and they're probably lower income as well-- at least, they often are.

And also, we've seen studies already that have shown that minority groups make up a disproportionate amount of these low income workers, essential workers. And it kind of goes back to, again, the ethnicity breakdown as well.

KRISTIN MYERS: And I'm wondering here because, obviously, I think of 2020 as such a difficult year, and again, therefore not surprising that so many folks are struggling with some of these mental health issues. I'm wondering if this study kind of decided to delve into some of the reasons why folks were reporting some of these higher feelings of anxiety and of depression.

ADRIANA BELMONTE: Well, there's record unemployment. We're almost at 500,000 deaths. And there's also the loneliness factor. I reached out to a few therapists, just to kind of get an idea of what it was like for them, and they said that they are seeing an unprecedented request for clients, like more than ever before. One of them actually described what's going on as the most serious national trauma that we've ever been through as a country.

So there's just so many different things going on at once. And it's kind of creating what they're describing as situational mental health problems, which is, you know, it's created by the current circumstances. And then there's also the people who are already experiencing problems beforehand, and the pandemic is only exacerbating this.

KRISTIN MYERS: All right, again, very sad study results. And I do want to just take a moment here for anyone that is at home watching this that finds themselves struggling with some of these mental health issues to please seek help. Some of these numbers are very alarming, particularly in terms of suicide. So please reach out to friends, family, and also a therapist. Adriana Belmonte, thank you so much for breaking down the results of this study.