The pandemic has been stressful for many Americans, but various racial and economic groups are experiencing the impact of that stress in very different ways, new research suggests.
A survey of 2,001 people found that only 54% of those polled from lower income households (making less than $30,000 annually) feel they have access to the resources they need to take care of their mental health.
That's compared to 76% of those from high income households (making $150,000 or more annually).
Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Big Health, the survey found that class disparities were also present for those seeking care.
Just 39% of those from lower-middle income households (earning between $30,000 and $59,999 annually) have sought help, compared to 57% of high-income earners.
And compared to high-income households, respondents who make less than $30,000 a year were twice as likely to cite expenses as a barrier to professional mental health support.
The most common symptoms included heightened anxiety (64%), feelings of depression (53%) and increased nervousness (50%).
Asian Americans (76%) and African Americans (68%) were the most likely to say they face stigma from their community around seeking help for mental health issues, compared to just 57% of white Americans.
Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander descent were more than twice as likely (52%) as white Americans (23%) to strongly agree that 2020 was the most stressful year of their lives.
African Americans were also likely to list 2020 as the most stressful year of their lives, with 34% strongly agreeing with the statement.
"Although we have made significant progress normalizing mental health care, stigma and cost continue to be a significant barrier for those seeking support, especially within underserved populations," said Big Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jenna Carl. "Moving forward, it is paramount that we focus on improving mental health equity by offering clinically based approaches to those who may not otherwise have access to care."
Feelings of isolation due to lockdowns (57%), being overwhelmed due to constant societal changes (49%), and stress at work (30%) — all common causes of sleep disruption, according to the National Sleep Foundation — are likely leading to longer-term problems.
In fact, nearly half of respondents indicated their sleep was disrupted during the pandemic.
Prescription medication is often seen as a solution — 39% of respondents are currently taking some form of it for their mental health.
And when prescription medication isn't an option, some respondents resort to other coping mechanisms; 30% claimed to self-medicate, while 19% reportedly use alcohol to deal with their mental health.
"We've seen radically increased demand for non-drug alternatives for mental health as a result of the pandemic. If there is a silver lining to the past year and a half, it's the collective realization that we need to increase access to evidence-based mental health care for those who need it," said Big Health Co-founder and CEO Peter Hames. "We're dedicated to helping people back to good mental health through equitable access to digital therapeutics."