By Madeleine McCarthy ’21
Mental illnesses like depression and anxiety have become increasingly common, diagnosed, and talked about within the youngest generation of adults. In 2020, almost 80% of adults aged 18-24 said they struggled with a form of mental illness. Mental illness seems to be affecting more people than ever, and experts are looking at COVID-19 for being a significant effect.
Young Americans are the age group experiencing the most mental health issues during the quarantine. According to the Washington Post, U.S. national anxiety rates have tripled since 2019, and depression rates have almost quadrupled. Both mental health disorders affect around 25% of the U.S. population. However, during the pandemic specifically, mental illness has disproportionately affected young adults.
The CDC administered a survey in June 2020 to thousands of American adults. They characterized groups based on age, gender, employment status, race, etc. and observed any correlations between groups. They found that 25% of adults aged 18-24 considered suicide recently, a percentage substantially higher than what they found earlier in the quarantine. They also found that nearly 75% of respondents of that same age group also suffered from difficult mental illnesses. Overall, the CDC discovered that more people during the pandemic experienced a form of mental illness, considered suicide, or found themselves mentally struggling compared to before the pandemic.
COVID-19 is considered a substantial impetus for many mental illnesses. Young people seem to be the people mentally battling the most, while mental illness symptoms decrease with age. The COVID-19 pandemic implements a lot of stress in their daily lives. Whether it’s worrying about getting the illness itself or worrying about high risk family members or friends, millennials are consistently worry-ridden.
The pandemic has also created shockingly high unemployment rates and the temporary (sometimes permanent) closing of many services, facilities, and businesses. Experts find that millennials are suffering from the uncertainty in their jobs or school life. The social isolation of quarantine contributes to mental illness, too. Any social lives that people had were halted the moment quarantine began. Suddenly, people were not allowed to see friends or extended family, go out, or hang out in any normal public places. This social isolation harmed social young adults who rely on connection in their everyday lives.
Additionally, COVID-19 has resulted in increasing substance use and alcoholism because of mental illnesses. Experts have found that more people are using substances to alleviate or cope with their mental illnesses like anxiety and depression.
Many people suffered during this quarantine, not just the physically ill. The stressors of the pandemic, along with the already prominent stressors of school, work, or home life, have created problems for people who are forced to stay at home with no social interaction. COVID-19 has created adverse mental health symptoms for countless Americans.
Even apart from COVID-19, mental illness rates have been increasing for years. Millions of Americans experience mental health problems, especially younger generations. The times of high school, college, and entering a career field bring numerous obstacles and struggles for millennials and generation Z. Mental illness, especially undiagnosed or unmedicated, puts them at risk for alcoholism, substance abuse, suicide, and more.