States most at risk for poor mental health conditions during COVID-19 

A new PSYDPrograms study shows that Oregon, Utah, and Washington are among the top five states with the highest risk of deleterious mental health conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The study is based on 2020 data from Mental Health America measuring anxiety, depression, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts via surveys and online screening tools. The researchers also analyzed indicators of declining of mental health conditions to asses which states were hubs for reported mental health incidents. 



So far, the data supports the view that the coronavirus outbreak will exacerbate mental health and substance abuse problems across the country. For example, a one percentage point increase in the unemployment rate has been shown to increase opioid addiction by 3.5%,” the researchers wrote.

Average daily positive screenings for severe anxiety increased from 126 in January to 169 in March. Google trends data for the keyword “online therapy” over the last year also indicates a precipitous increase in the number of people researching virtual treatment options as face-to-face mental health treatment became unavailable. 

The data analyzed by researchers was also used to assess which regions of the country contain the most adults who reported a mental health condition in 2020. 

Researchers found that Idaho (25%) has the highest percentage of adults with a mental health condition, followed by Oregon (23.6%) and Utah (23.5%). Washington State was ranked 5th (22.8%) 

New Jersey, Hawaii, Texas have the lowest rates of mental health conditions in the country. Even in those states, however, 16% of the population still reported some sort of mental health condition.

It has also been reported that sales of alcohol for home consumption have increased since states began enacting quarantine measures. For this reason, the researchers also looked at 2020 data from Mental Health America measuring the percent of adults reporting a substance abuse condition.

Oregon had the fourth highest percent (9.8%) of adults reporting a substance abuse condition in 2020. Alaska was sixth (9.3%) Colorado was ninth (9.1%) and Washington was tenth (8.9%).

In April, one crisis mental-health hotline reported an 891% spike in calls. So to round out their study, researchers analyzed data on suicide risk. 

Looking at states with the highest percent of adults reporting an incidence of suicidal thoughts, Utah was leading the pack at 6%. Colorado was third (5.4%), Alaska was fifth (5.3%), Oregon was sixth (5.2%) and Washington was 7th (5.1%). Texas was 50th at 3.7% and seemed to register near the bottom of the rankings in each of the metrics analyzed by researchers.