Americans’ mental health is taking a much worse beating than their physical health during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a Gallup poll released this week.
In a survey titled “Americans’ Mental Health Ratings Sink to New Low,” Gallup reported some disturbing findings concerning the fallout from the coronavirus and from measures employed to curb its spread. Whereas people’s physical health has remained stable during this period, their mental health has suffered significantly.
In comparing Americans’ self-described mental health between 2019 and 2020, the study also revealed a disparity of effects from the pandemic depending on one’s age, sex, religiosity, political leanings, income, and marital status.
Women, for instance, have taken a harder hit than men, with only 27 percent of women describing their mental health as “excellent,” a drop from 37 percent in 2019. By contrast, 41 percent of men say their mental health is excellent, down from 49 percent last year.
The only demographic whose mental health seems to have improved in 2020 are those who attend religious services on a weekly basis, with 46 percent of this group enjoying excellent mental health as opposed to 42 percent in 2019. Those who seldom or never attend religious services have suffered much more, with just 29 percent describing their mental health as excellent, down from 42 percent in 2019.
While Republicans enjoy notably better mental health than Democrats across the board, they describe a far bigger drop than Democrats in this period, although as Gallup acknowledges, this may be due more to their reaction to the presidential election than to the pandemic, since the survey took place during November.
While last year 56 percent of Republicans said they enjoyed excellent mental health, that figure dropped to 41 percent in November 2020, a decline of 15 percent. Among Democrats, on the other hand, 30 percent described their mental health as excellent in 2019 whereas 29 percent said the same when questioned last month, a drop of just one percent.
William Donohue, the president of the Catholic league and a sociologist, summarized the poll’s findings in the following way:
The segment of the public that is experiencing the most dramatic effects of Covid-19 are young single women who identify as liberals and are not religious. The segment that is suffering the least mental health problems are older married men who identify as conservatives and are church-goers.
“We have known for years that there is a positive correlation between those who score high on religiosity (beliefs and practices) and physical health,” Donohue wrote. “The more religious the person is, the healthier he is likely to be. The correlation is even higher when measures of mental health are weighed.”