The onset of Covid-19 changed the lives of people drastically. From work environments to personal lifestyles, everything changed significantly. Many companies started shutting down or introduced crucial alterations to their existing systems. For instance, work from home began, and remote working increased. Similarly, on the personal front, people were required to practice social distancing. All these things had a toll on the mental well-being of people and even led to greater substance abuse in the US.
Mental health is an important factor that impacts the overall well-being of a person. In the US, even before the pandemic began, the country was already battling with a high number of people suffering from mental health issues. As of 2016, 1 in every 5 adults (aged 18 and above) dealt with a mental illness. This meant that approximately 20% of the US population suffered from anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or another similar mental condition before Covid-19. The global pandemic has only worsened the problem.
Various studies claim that there has been a significant rise in the number of people showing symptoms associated with mental ill-health after Covid-19. For instance, The Standard reported that during the pandemic both substance abuse and mental illnesses among workers increased. The percentage of workers dealing with poor mental conditions rose from 39% in 2019 to 46% in 2020. Out of these, 11% of workers are suffering from a serious mental illness. Considering that approximately 63% of the US population is a part of the workforce, it is quite easy to imagine the extent of the populace affected by mental ill-health.
Substance abuse is a crucial problem in the US that is increasing despite substantial efforts taken to contain it. Substance abuse mainly involves the consumption of drugs and alcohol. It has a range of harmful effects on every aspect of an individual’s life. People who are addicted to any substance usually have difficulties in maintaining a stable family and work life. This is accompanied by financial problems, loss of productivity, and crime. The sad fact that more and more youngsters are falling into the trip is disheartening. As of 2017, 19.7 million people aged 12 and above dealt with substance use disorder in the US.
In most cases, mental illness and substance use follow each other. For instance, a mentally disoriented person is more likely to engage in substance abuse. Similarly, an individual with substance use disorder has a higher probability of having poor mental health. This observation is supported by the fact that in 2017, 8.5 million adults in the US suffered from both substance abuse and mental health disorder. These statistics have turned scarier since the pandemic.
Research shows that people who consumed drugs or had substance use disorder were at a greater risk of getting affected by Covid-19. It is because use of drugs has a significant impact on the body. For instance, intake of opioids slows breathing, cocaine can lead to chronic health and lung diseases, and the practice of vaping also affects the lungs. Since Coronarvirus primarily affects the respiratory system, people with substance use disorder are in greater danger of acquiring a severe illness due to the virus. A study conducted in 2020 showed that people engaged in substance abuse were 1.5 times more likely to have Covid-19 than those who did not. Furthermore, these individuals also had a greater probability of experiencing severe outcomes such as hospitalization and even death.
Studies claim that the following groups were more affected by the pandemic than others:
Covid-19 has also significantly affected the mental health of young adults (falling in the age group of 18-24), women, communities of color, and people with medical conditions.
Other mental conditions include illness anxiety disorder, eating, and sleeping disorders, and depression.
Covid-19 hit the world unexpectedly and created a tumult globally. The initial period was filled with confusion, stress, and vital changes happening in the routines and lifestyles of people. No doubt, it did take a toll on the mental well-being of people. The possible reasons for the same are many. Some of them are:
1.Health-related anxieties: The pandemic created a panic among the people as nobody knew exactly how to deal with the disease. The possibility of getting infected by the deadly virus, the chance of being admitted to a hospital, and the likelihood of unknowingly passing on the infection to others strained people. Further, the media coverage of how the number of deaths was rising in certain countries, and the bar graph showing cases rising rapidly, worsened the situation. Individuals were fearful for their lives and that of their loved ones. The uncertainty The fear created stress and anxiety, which ultimately affected the mental health of the people.
2.Financial insecurity: Before the pandemic began, the US economy was flourishing with low unemployment rates and low inflation. However, governments had to temporarily close down markets, shopping malls, restaurants, offices, and other areas. In short, a substantial portion of the US economy was shut after Covid-19 struck. While various companies went digital and introduced new systems that helped them adapt to the changes, many businesses closed. Organizations also started looking for cost-cutting measures such as laying off employees or paying them lower salaries. Moreover, remote working increased.
All these factors caused individuals to worry about their financial security. US workers stressed their ability to meet their living and family expenses. Fear of job loss affected the workers’ productivity to a great extent. Lack of financial and health support from management and poor communication created problems further. Matters like less job security, less housing stability, piling debt, and income loss undoubtedly had a devastating impact on people’s mental health.
3.Changes in lifestyle: With Covid-19 came numerous rules and regulations that transformed the way people lived. Wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, and working from home became the regular norm. The imposition of lockdown to contain the spread of the virus impacted the people’s freedom to travel, meet friends, or stay outdoors. In the case of students, universities closed and online classes began.
In the US, surveys show that several people presented higher signs of loneliness than before. The inability of individuals to socialize or travel resulted in boredom. More and more people showed signs of worry and distress. This is because long-term social distancing can cause Agoraphobia among people. Domestic problems and family tensions while staying together in lockdown caused psychological distress among Americans. Research also showed that since the need for social interaction is greater among youngsters than older people, they were more vulnerable to get distressed.
Since the pandemic, the focus on mental health issues and substance abuse have increased tremendously.Several things are being done to conquer the ill effects of the pandemic on the mental health of people.Here are some of them:
The Covid-19 pandemic undoubtedly disrupted the fabric of everyday life to a great extent. While the initial period was tough, filled with confusion and fear, many steps have been taken to improve the situation. For instance, nearly every individual is vaccinated in the US today. People now feel much safer and equipped to deal with the virus as compared to last year.