Stress, Depression, and Anxiety Are More Widespread Than Ever In America

Stress, depression, and anxiety are more widespread in America than ever before, according to a new analysis. Most concerning, the findings suggest those affected are often unable to afford medical treatment to rehabilitate them once their issues.

The new analysis of federal government figures from 2006 to 2014 shows that approximately 8.3 million Americans live with some form of serious psychological distress (SPD), a condition defined as experiencing mental health problems serious enough to necessitate medical treatment.

Based on these numbers, the report published in the journal Psychiatric Services infers that up to 3.4% of adult Americans experience SPD, an increase from 3% estimate last established in a survey released nearly a decade ago.

The findings state that those with serious psychological distress are also three times more likely to be unable to afford general healthcare, and up to 10 times more likely to be unable to afford medication, compared to those without SPD.

The report uses data collected by annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These yearly surveys receive about 200,000 respondents between the ages of 18 to 64.

While there are several potential factors that could have contributed to the increase in stress, depression, and anxiety among Americans, lead researcher Judith Weissman from New York University’s Lagone Medical Center suggests the effects of the financial crisis may explain the rise in those reporting serious psychological distress.

“People who had mental illness just could not recover. Maybe they were holding it together, they had a job, they had some resources, and then they got wiped out with this recession and they couldn’t get back on their feet,” Weissman told New Scientist.

In addition to this, the researchers point to lack of access to mental healthcare, specifically among those affected. As Weissman told The Huffington Post, lack of providers able to treat these issues leaves many unable to seek help.

“There is this generation of middle-aged adults that are really suffering right now and if policies change, if we increase access to mental healthcare and we increase coverage for mental health care, we can save the next generation,” she said.

The effects of this increase may have even directly contributed to the increase in suicide rates in America. In 2016 the rate of suicide rose to a 30-year high.

While serious psychological distress increased from 2006 to 2014, access to healthcare for people with SPD declined compared to emotional distress. Approximately three in 10 people with SPD reported having no healthcare coverage, compared to two in 10 for those without psychological distress.

Combined, these factors create the perfect recipe for increasing psychological distress. Outside factors such as the financial crisis can push people towards a spiral into serious issues with stress, anxiety, and depression, and lack of access to healthcare means there is no way to resolve these issues for many. Until we increase access to mental health specialized care in America, the rates are likely to remain high.

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