Mental Health Impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic in New York State
February 8, 2021
As of February 2021, more than 1.4 million New Yorkers have been infected by the coronavirus and more than 43,000 have died from COVID-19.
A wide body of research shows that people commonly experience fear, anxiety, and stress during and after a disaster, so it is not surprising that the coronavirus pandemic is taking a toll on the mental health of New Yorkers.
In addition to anxiety about the coronavirus itself, many New Yorkers are struggling with the societal changes resulting from the pandemic, such as isolation from community, uncertainty about the future, or new childcare responsibilities. The financial strain caused by widespread job loss decreases New Yorkers’ ability to afford mental health care and increases other risk factors for poor mental health.
Using survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau, a new NYSHealth report analyzes mental health in New York State during the pandemic. The report examines mental health by race and ethnicity, age, and household income, and compares symptoms among New Yorkers who did and did not experience a loss in household employment income during the pandemic. It also outlines current efforts underway as well as additional solutions to address the unmet need for mental health services in New York State.
- In May 2020, more than one-third of adult New Yorkers reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depression in the prior week. That rate is more than triple what was self-reported nationally using similar measures during recent pre-pandemic periods.
- The proportion of New Yorkers reporting poor mental health has remained high throughout the pandemic, reaching 37% of adult New Yorkers in October 2020.
- Compared with all racial and ethnic groups, New Yorkers of color generally reported the highest rates of poor mental health throughout the survey period. In October 2020, 42% of Hispanic and 39% of Black New Yorkers reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depression in the prior week.
- Although all age groups were affected, young adult New Yorkers (ages 18–34 years) reported the highest rates (49%) of poor mental health in October 2020.
- Low-income New Yorkers experienced the highest rates of poor mental health across the survey period, compared with all other income groups. Reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depression increased across all income brackets from May to October 2020.
- In October 2020, nearly half of New Yorkers (47%) in households that lost employment income since the start of the pandemic reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depression in the prior week. This rate is 1.7x higher than among households that did not experience income loss.