Delta’s Damage: Double-Digit Jumps in PTSD, Anxiety, Stress Plague Workers

Peak summer time yielded peak risk rates for several conditions affecting employee wellbeing, increasing the urgency with which employers must prioritize mental health resources as they rethink the COVID-era workplace.

This month, the Mental Health Index saw the biggest increase in PTSD risk rates, which rose 56% from the month prior -- putting it 83% above pre-pandemic rates. (To learn more about how PTSD affects employees in the workplace, read our MHI blog from last month.)

One demographic, in particular, reported a marked rise in three areas compared to the month prior: 40-59-year-olds saw a 15% increase in stress, a 94% climb in the risk for General Anxiety Disorder, and a 10% upward trend in Conscious Negativity Bias.

Cause and Effect

What caused such an increase in PTSD, stress, and Nonconscious Negativity Bias (or, negative thinking)? Last month’s headlines were rife with existential threats: skyrocketing COVID rates resulting from the Delta variant arrived on the heels of a new school year; there was loss of life due to climate change disasters both in the U.S. and abroad; a never-seen-before housing market showed no signs of abating; and growing political divides echoed in the news and in our social media feeds.

While these problems affect everybody, the 40-59 age range seems to bear the brunt. On the younger end of the spectrum are parents of school-aged children (many of whom are too young to be vaccinated), which is causing a great deal of stress. Expected classroom exposures and the potential for lockdowns pose a continued threat to working parents -- some of whom are being called back to the office. Additionally, as confirmed in a recent report from the UN, this age group is likely coming to terms with the fact that their school-aged children will face unprecedented challenges around climate change as they go through adulthood. 

Within this demographic is the largest set of homebuyers in 2021; 24% of those shopping for a house right now are between 41 and 50. A combination of a long-term supply shortage, large-scale real estate purchases by investors, and a COVID-driven exodus from some cities has created an intensely competitive situation for home buyers. (Buying a home was already considered one of the most stressful life events.)

This age group, the majority of which is known as “the sandwich generation,” is also far more likely to be dealing with elder care challenges, which comes with significant emotional and economic impact. 

On the older end of this age range are individuals who are at a slightly higher risk of severe illness from COVID. (More than half account for the most dominant demographic of COVID cases in July.)  These are  individuals who are in a phase of their lives where they may be readying for (or thinking about) retirement. Dan Doonan, the executive director of the National Retirement Institute, says these Generation Xers are right to be concerned about their retirement future, in part because of the economic crisis caused by the pandemic. 

Strengthening the Shield

While there’s nothing much employers can do when it comes to helping employees manage stress-inducers like climate change or political divides, they can address how employees cope with them. Strengthening the mental wellbeing of their workforces starts with providing the right resources, whether it’s a paid mental health day or digital tools. 

What does “the right resource” look like? Something that is holistic, customizable, and accountable. Because we are deeply familiar with what real improvement requires when it comes to mental health, we built the Total Brain app to meet all three of those characteristics.

Holistic. PTSD, stress levels, and Nonconscious Negativity Bias are all interrelated, which means making significant gains in any of those areas can affect the others. Total Brain’s broad library of brain training games and resources offer users a chance to address the entire mental “ecosystem” through routine practice (like meditations and breathing exercise that reduce stress), games that address different functionalities, and educational assets (like articles and videos that help users better understand how their brain works, and the science behind their challenges.)

Customizable. Because each brain is unique, there’s no single-template program that would drive improvements in any of those areas for everyone. Total Brain’s initial assessment determines individual needs -- whether it’s memory improvement or cultivating positive thinking -- and generates a customized plan. Mental health is fluid, which is why we prompt our users to re-assess their brain capacities several times a year -- at which point the app updates its recommendations to retain that personalized feed.

Accountable. Too many wellbeing resources skip metrics, but we thrive on them. Proof in numbers can be a great driver when it comes to health, whether it’s tracking pounds shed, miles run, or weights lifted. The same goes for the effort people invest in their mental health and the funds employers put into their employee resources. Total Brain provides each employee with concrete metrics, showing them where they’ve made gains and where they need to do more work. For employers, Total Brain provides access to an anonymized data dashboard that details how employees are engaging with the app and how it’s benefiting the workforce -- a great way to gauge ROI.

Are you ready to help your employees strengthen their shields in these tense times? Request a demo.

Don’t miss our monthly webinars where industry thought leaders gather to review the latest Mental Health Index data and discuss the mental health of working Americans. Register today.

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