Risk of Addiction Rises in Women, Men See Post-Election Relief

November marks another month of elevated stress, anxiety, depressed mood, and negativity among American workers. Total Brain’s Mental Health Index for the month shows women, in particular, are beginning to feel the emotional impact, with the rising risk of addiction in females up 65% between the start of September and November, which suggests women are coping with the pandemic in unhealthy ways.

Men continue to battle mental health issues as well. Making it particularly difficult is the fact that men’s resilience has decreased. From the beginning of August to November, resilience has decreased among working men by 6%. As men become less resilient, they are also struggling in other mental capacities. Therefore, it isn’t surprising that men’s stress and conscious negativity have both risen in recent months.

Every cloud does have a silver lining, however. The November Mental Health Index provides some indication that mental capacities may begin to show improvement, with men showing signs of post-election mental health relief.

Risk of Mental Conditions During Pandemic

Total Brain has been monitoring three of the major mental health conditions, and while they have remained relatively stable for both men and women, the risk of general anxiety disorder, depression, and PTSD remain alarmingly higher than before the global pandemic.

From October to November the risk of general anxiety disorder, depressive disorder and PTSD remain somewhat stable, but are up 38%, 66% and 47% respectively since February. “We need to be on the lookout for those who have never experienced anxiety or depression before; they’ve been struggling and continue to struggle,” said Katy Schneider Riddick, Director of Strategy and Engagement with One Mind at Work.

Woman and Risk of Addiction

November’s Mental Health Index shows that women are finding it difficult to cope with the weight of the pandemic, with some turning to substances in an attempt to cope. Between September and November, women’s risk of addiction increased 65%. Women’s risk of sleep apnea is also up 126% when compared to the month of February.

Lack of sleep and a significant rise in addiction are both concerning statistics. Judging by these numbers it suggests they are combining to create an unhealthy scenario for women as they deal with all the stress and negative emotions brought on by the pandemic.

“This is not shocking, but it is scary and we need to be paying attention here,” said Colleen McHugh, the President of theHealthcare Policy Roundtable.

McHugh recommends that American workers, especially women, take vacation time off work, even if it does not feel like a vacation. “These signs tend to take longer to manifest; how is addiction going to look six months from now?” McHugh continued.

Post-Election Improvements in Men

Anxiety, depression, PTSD, stress and conscious negativity bias all remain at alarmingly higher levels than where they were before the pandemic began. However, men have seen some improvements following the November election with drops in nearly every mental health risk category.

Risk of both depressive disorder and PTSD dropped 27% in men following the election, and the risk of general anxiety disorder dropped 18%.

It’s not clear why only men saw some mental health relief post-election. However, Total Brain data shows the drop follows a rise in stress that only men saw in the month leading up to the election, which could be related to how men and women process threat and stress differently.

Scientific literature suggests women tend to change their emotional response to cope with threats and stressors, while men tend to try to solve the underlying problem. When it comes to the pandemic and the election, the problem simply can’t be solved, meaning relief may come only when the event passes, which is what we saw with the election.

Analysts from the Total Brain science team will be paying close attention to see if this trend continues in the coming months.

Emotional Capacity Changes

Since June, emotional awareness has been rising in small amounts and most recently increased by 3% over the last month. One of the more interesting trends emerging in emotional capacities for American workers relates to the ability to accurately read emotional cues in others.

Research shows that if a person is experiencing a strong emotional state, their brain can more accurately pick out that emotion in other people. Specifically, the Mental Health Index showed anger recognition is up 7% in men, while women’s ability to recognize disgust has increased 8%. The takeaway here is that men are likely experiencing more anger, and women are experiencing elevated levels of disgust.

View the full November findings here.

Future Predictions

December brings the holiday season, but some may not be celebrating due to the pandemic and that could play a role in increasing mental health burdens. “The anxiety of Christmas and not being able to be with your family could make things worse,” McHugh said.

Although vaccines are now available and more may be on the way, the pandemic and its physical and mental effects are far from over. Experts warn the next few months could be difficult. “January and February are going to be very hard months. People are going to continue to feel isolated and lonely, both of which negatively impact mental health,” McHugh added.

If you are a mental health professional and want to use Total Brain to monitor your patients’ mental health, book a personalized demo.

If you’re an HR or benefits professional charged with improving employee mental health, schedule a meeting to discuss how Total Brain can help.

The Mental Health Index: U.S. Worker Edition contains data drawn from a weekly randomized sample of 500 working Americans taken from a larger universe of Total Brain users that includes workers from all walks of life and regions. It is reported bi-monthly and distributed in partnership with the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions One Mind at Work, and the HR Policy Association, and American Health Policy Institute.

mental health in the covid-19 era