Survey: A third of adults in region say mental health worsened during pandemic

Amy Powell stands with her son, Murphy, 9, as she and other school faculty lined up for Covid-19 vaccines administered by Kroger Wednesday, February 3, 2021 at Lakota West High School in West Chester Township. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
Amy Powell stands with her son, Murphy, 9, as she and other school faculty lined up for Covid-19 vaccines administered by Kroger Wednesday, February 3, 2021 at Lakota West High School in West Chester Township. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

One-third of adults in the tri-state area say their mental health has worsened during the year-plus of thee coronavirus pandemic, according to a recent Interact for Health survey.

The pandemic had upended lives with stay-at-home and social distancing protocols. Not only has it resulted in the illness of more than 1 million Ohioans ― killing more than 18,500 ― but also in nearly 2 million residents collecting unemployment.

While 32% of all surveyed say their mental health worsened, the report also indicates 40% of people ages 18 to 29 say their mental health more likely worsened during the pandemic. Only 7% of adults say their mental health improved, and 61% say their mental health stayed the same, according to the survey.

During the pandemic, 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder, a share that has been largely consistent, up from one in ten adults who reported these symptoms from January to June 2019, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF).

A KFF health tracking poll released at the end of July found many adults reported specific negative impacts on their mental health and well-being, such as difficulty sleeping (36%) or eating (32%) due to worry and stress over the coronavirus.

Interact for Health’s survey showed the pandemic’s influence on people’s physical impact was not as bad with 75% of Greater Cincinnati adults saying their impact stayed about the same and 8% saying it got better. Only 16 percent said their physical health worsened, according to the survey.

As people in the region receive the COVID-19 vaccine, they can return to more typical work, school and leisure activities, “the direct physical impacts of the pandemic will hopefully be minimized in the coming months,” said Dr. O’dell Owens, president and CEO of Interact for Health.

“But I’m concerned about the number of adults who indicate their mental health has gotten worse in the last year,” said Owens, who retires from Interact at the end of this month. “We know that struggles with mental health can also affect substance abuse and suicide rates. Further, research has shown that mental health impacts last longer than physical health impacts. Our region will need to work together to address this ongoing health issue.”

Butler County is one of 22 counties in the Greater Cincinnati COVID-19 Health Issues Survey conducted by the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati and released by Interact for Health.

More than 1 million Ohioans have been infected with the COVID-19 virus and more than 18,500 have died, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Nearly 36,900 of Ohio’s cases have been in Butler County, 531 in the past two weeks, according to the state health department. Nearly 500 have died in Butler County since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020.

COPING WITH STRESS

Experts say it is important to preserve one’s mental health though it can be difficult as the pandemic causes stress. To manage stress and anxiety, some of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations include:

  • Take breaks from the news and social media
  • Take care of your body, including breathing exercises, stretching, and physical activity
  • Schedule time to unwind with activities like meditation or reading
  • Connect with your community or faith-based organizations

Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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