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Most adults are experiencing more stress than same time last year, new report shows

June 16, 2020 | Mental Health

A male doctor, wearing blue scrubs, a face mask, and a hair net, sits on steps outside of a medical facility, looking pensive. A female co-worker sits next to him in the background, looking into the distance.

New CVS Health national survey reveals negative effects of COVID-19 on mental well-being, particularly for frontline health care workers

According to new data, COVID-19 is exacerbating risks to mental health — especially among health care workers — and hindering accessibility to find care. More Americans are considering emerging services to improve access, such as telemedicine.

In a recent nationwide survey conducted by CVS Health and Morning Consult, two thirds of adults indicated they are experiencing more stress compared to this time last year, and more than 60 percent feared the impact of COVID-19 on their health. Stress has increased particularly among health care workers (75%) who are on the frontlines battling the pandemic.

Frontline health care workers are also reporting higher levels of harmful behaviors as a result of COVID-19. Approximately half of health care workers noted that COVID-19 has reduced their sleep schedules (54%), worsened their diet (51%) and had an overall negative impact on the state of their mental health (48%). A quarter also reported an increased desire to drink alcohol or use illicit substances.

“Rising stress and fear clearly demonstrate the existence of a ‘second curve,’ which is the less visible but escalating mental health crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Cara McNulty, DPA, President, Aetna Behavioral Health. “We need to continue to move fast to ensure we are connecting those on the front lines of the pandemic with mental well-being resources.”

To help flatten this second curve, CVS Health has increased access to several no-cost mental health resources through targeted financial support, such as outpatient counseling for hospital-based employees in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut via Give an Hour.

CVS Health has also made Aetna's Resources for Living (RFL) program available to everyone, which includes real-time phone support to help callers cope with the emotional impact of the pandemic (accessible by calling 1-833-327-AETNA or 1-833-327-2386).

According to the survey, nearly one-in-three adults are very likely to use mental and emotional health care services if they are provided by their health insurance provider, and more than half would find them useful. Additionally, half of respondents are familiar with telemedicine services. Approximately 50 percent of adults are willing to try speaking to a personal licensed therapist via video or phone, and 48% would communicate via text messaging or a mobile application.

Surveyed adults also report a lack of familiarity with employee-assistance programs (EAPs), which typically offer in-the-moment counseling services over the phone, resources to relieve stress, wellness programs and more. Only eight percent of respondents have utilized one in the past, and nearly 40 percent have never heard of an EAP.

Morning Consult poll conducted from April 28 to May 3, 2020 among a national sample of 2,200 adults and 500 frontline health care workers.