Data shows dangerous decline and all-time low in Americans’ mental health;  likely due to holidays, political uncertainties and continuing COVID-19 stressors

SAN FRANCISCO and WASHINGTON - The state of mind of the U.S. workforcedoes not reflect the optimism and mental health relief hoped for with the availability of the COVID-19 vaccines. Quite the opposite.According to the Mental Health Index: U.S. Worker Edition, between November and December there was a 48% increase in the risk of depression – a perilous risk level not seen since the height of the pandemic this past spring. Further, employees’ focus dropped 62% – a recordlow since the inception of the research in February 2020.

Women showing greatest signs of stress and anxiety

The brain assessments, used to generate data for the latest Mental Health Index, were taken during the holiday season, an often anxiety-inducing time of year made more stressful by COVID19. Womenshowed a 46% rise in risk for general anxiety disorder between November and December. Further, at the end of December, women’s stress levels were 22% higher than their male counterparts.

“Heightened stress during the holidays is anticipated, especially for women who often bear the brunt of holiday planning,” noted Louis Gagnon, CEO, Total Brain. “However, the Mental Health Index numbers are disconcerting just the same. We are seeing an unprecedentedrise in risk of mental health conditions. At the same time, we are witnessing a sharp decline in cognitive functions. This is a crisis that should alarm everyone in the business community. Business policies designed to support the mental health of employees are essential. There is another pandemic going on, themental health pandemicfor which there will be no vaccine…”

The Mental Health Index: U.S. Worker Edition, powered by Total Brain, a mental health and brain performance self-monitoring and self-care platform, is distributed in partnership with the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, One Mind at Work, and the HR Policy Association and its American Health Policy Institute.

“After a prolonged period of environmental stress, the concerns about the mental health of our workforce are reaching new peaks,” said Michael Thompson, National Alliance president and CEO. “Moving the vaccination strategy forward cannot come fast enough in our efforts to get back to normal.”

“More than ever before during the pandemic, employees are struggling and employers have an obligation to identify new ways to support the mental health of their workforce,” said Garen Staglin, chairman of workplace wellbeing coalition One Mind at Work. “The data is showing what we’re all experiencing – a year into the pandemic, it is hard to focus and not to be depressed by the raging pandemic.  We must maintain focus, as this is a marathon not a sprint.”

Executive vice president of the American Health Policy Institute and strategic advisor for HR Policy Association Colleen McHugh said, “The findings of this report demonstrate the intensified anxiety and stress during the holiday season coupled with employee focus at a record low since the beginning of the pandemic period.  While these results are clearly going in the wrong direction, our greatest hope is that Americans can begin to experience some relief with increased vaccine production, distribution and through the ongoing safety guidelines focusing on well-being from their employers.  We hope that these measures will start to advance better mental health results over the weeks and months to come.”

The full Mental Health Index results can be found here. For more information and additional insights there will be a complimentary 30-minute webinar on Friday, January 29 at 12 p.m. ET. JoiningGagnon, Thompson, Staglin and McHughisRosa Nova, administrative benefits director, Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Register here: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_YDKMGn2hTlmzkCY2YuXggA.

Methodology: The Mental Health Index: U.S. Worker Edition contains data drawn from a weekly randomized sample of 500 working Americans taken from a larger universe of Total Brain users. The Index is NOT a survey or a poll. Data is culled from neuroscientific brain assessments using standardized digital tasks and questions from the Total Brain platform. Participants include workers from all walks of life and regions, job levels, occupations, industries, and types of organizations (public vs. private). The brain assessments used to compile the Mental Health Index were taken weekly from February 3 to December 22, 2020.