A new poll suggests that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic isn’t the biggest worry Americans face.
According to results from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) Healthy Minds Monthly Poll, nearly 90% of residents in the United States report feeling anxious or very anxious about inflation, an increase of 8 percentage points from the previous month.
With inflation at a 40-year high, the APA poll also revealed that over 50% of Americans are worried about a potential loss of income.
“Healthy Minds Monthly is showing us that the economy seems to have supplanted COVID as a major factor in American’s day-to-day anxiety,” said APA President Rebecca Brendel, MD, in a statement.
The poll was conducted between June 18 and 20, 2022, and interviewed just over 2,000 U.S. adults.
Anxiety about COVID drops, income insecurity rises
According to the APA poll, anxiety about COVID-19 continues to decrease.
COVID-related anxiety is down from 49% to 47% among all Americans since May, and 16% (from 63% to 47%) among Black Americans during the same period.
However, there was also greater than average anxiety about income loss among certain groups.
The poll found that 66% of Hispanic adults, 65% of mothers, and over 60% of millennials and Gen Zers were among the groups most likely to worry about loss of income. (Nearly half of Gen Zers were also concerned about gun violence).
Financial stress affects health
“If you look at scientific measures of social stress or social vulnerability, the factors that are associated with increased risk of ill health are all affected by financial stress,” Dr. Timothy B. Sullivan, chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Staten Island University Hospital, part of Northwell Health in New York, told Healthline.
“We know that social vulnerability or social determinants of health have an important and often unseen impact on both physical and mental well-being,” he continued.
According to Sullivan, when people feel a loss of control over things that are important in their daily life, it not only causes psychological distress but over time, it could also have adverse effects on their physical health.
Financial distress can lead to despair
“APA’s recent Stress in America study found that 72% of Americans reported feeling stressed about money at least sometime in the prior month,” said Carmen Nicole Katsarov, LPCC, CCM, executive director at Behavioral Health Integration at CalOptima in Orange County, California.
She pointed out that as a health plan for low-income people, CalOptima sees the impact financial stress has on its members, both physically and psychologically, on a daily basis.
“When someone has a decrease in the ability to afford the basic things related to living, such as food and housing,” she said, “it can lead to feelings of despair and hopelessness that can increase the likelihood of a serious mental health condition, especially when someone cannot see a way out of their situation.”
Katsarov added this had been associated with an increase in suicidal thoughts or actions. “Chronic stress can impact all areas of someone’s life, including self-esteem, work, and personal relationships,” she said.