Lauren Dempsey, MS in Biomedicine and Law, RN, FISM News
A new Gallup poll shows that U.S. adults have rated their own overall mental health the lowest in over 20 years.
Mental health can be an important measure of the overall well-being of society. Millions of Americans report having a mental health diagnosis, meaning the U.S. has some of the highest rates of mental health issues in the world.
The poll surveyed 1,020 U.S. adults between Nov. 9 and Dec. 2, and found that just 31% of American adults describe their mental health or emotional well-being as “excellent,” the worst rating ever found by the poll by three percentage points. That is even lower than in 2001, when positive assessments of mental health dropped to 34%.
In the last poll before the start of the COVID pandemic, 45% of Americans rated their mental health as “excellent.”
Another 44% of Americans rated their mental health as “good” in the latest poll, 17% of U.S. adults described their mental health as “only fair,” and 7% rated their mental health as “poor.” Poll data also showed an increase in visits to a psychologist, therapist, psychiatrist, or some other mental health professional over the last year, with 23% of adults seeking some sort of help.
This is a significant increase since 2004, when 13% of adults sought help from a professional and 51% of American adults rated their mental health as “excellent.” In 2022, adults averaged 3.2 mental health visits and 13% of Americans visited a mental health professional five or more times in the same time period.
According to the National Center for Health Statics (NCHS), a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 11.7% of adults regularly feel worried, nervous, and anxious and 4.8% of adults have regular feelings of depression.
In 2018, almost 56 million Americans saw a physician for a mental disorder as a primary diagnosis and almost 5 million individuals were seen in an emergency room related to mental, behavioral, and neurodevelopmental diagnoses. According to the poll, women and those with lower household incomes are more likely to rate their mental health negatively and are more likely to seek help for mental health.
Americans consistently rated their physical health less positively than their mental health with 26% of adults rating their physical health as “excellent,” 47% rating their physical health as “good,” just 21% saying they are in “good” health, and 5% reporting being in “poor” health. These numbers seem to have been unaffected by the pandemic.
Many believe that the pandemic, economic concerns such as inflation, as well as the importance placed on getting help and having good mental health may be some factors in the shifting numbers.
We now know that pandemic mitigation strategies caused a spike in mental health disorders, especially for adolescents, and contributed to an increase in alcohol and substance abuse deaths in adults. A survey from June 2020 highlighting the damaging effects of the pandemic lockdowns found that 41% of Americans had “at least one adverse mental or behavioral health condition,” substance abuse had increased by three to four times in the span of one year, and almost 11% of those surveyed had contemplated suicide.
In March, the Biden administration acknowledged the “unprecedented mental health crisis among people of all ages” and put in place a strategy to “strengthen system capacity, connect more Americans to care, and create a continuum of support.”
Editor’s Biblical Analysis
Many may not realize it, but the Bible actually has quite a lot to say about what we call “mental health” today. One great example is found in Paul and Timothy’s letter to the believers in Philippi:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7
Anxiety and other mental health issues are rampant in our society today. People often turn to doctors and pharmaceuticals for the answer. While these things may help alleviate the symptoms for a time, they do not address the real heart of the issue: A person cannot and will not feel true peace without the knowledge and love of Christ the King.
What we often label as “mental health” issues are actually spiritual health issues. For many, the root of their mental anguish is separation from God due to unrepented sin, either their own or that of someone close to them. Therefore, any mental health treatment that does not address the individual’s need for Christ and obedience to His will is insufficient.
The Bible tells us to cast our anxieties on God (1 Peter 5:7), “for God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).
Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:10
I am not here to discourage anyone from seeking professional help if they feel anxious, depressed, or mentally unwell. However, I encourage you to seek help from a Christian professional who understands and promotes that true mental health comes only with spiritual health in the service of King Jesus.
Also, seek help in God’s Word. Throughout Scripture, God comforts and strengthens those who seek Him. Study the Bible, memorize verses that bring you peace, and speak them out loud when you become anxious or depressed.
As Jesus said during his Sermon on the Mount,
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. – Matthew 6:34