- A new poll from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) shows that anxiety about inflation and loss of income is surging among Americans, particularly Hispanic adults, mothers, millennials, and Gen Zers.
- The poll indicates that COVID-related anxiety is decreasing as stress about social determinants like income insecurity increases.
- Experts suggest that people can turn to community-based organizations for support and that it’s important to recognize the signs of stress and to know when to ask for help.
A new poll suggests that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic isn’t the biggest worry Americans face.
According to results from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) Healthy Minds Monthly Poll, nearly 90% of residents in the United States report feeling anxious or very anxious about inflation, an increase of 8 percentage points from the previous month.
With inflation at a 40-year high, the APA poll also revealed that over 50% of Americans are worried about a potential loss of income.
“Healthy Minds Monthly is showing us that the economy seems to have supplanted COVID as a major factor in American’s day-to-day anxiety,” said APA President Rebecca Brendel, MD, in a statement.
The poll was conducted between June 18 and 20, 2022, and interviewed just over 2,000 U.S. adults.
According to the APA poll, anxiety about COVID-19 continues to decrease.
COVID-related anxiety is down from 49% to 47% among all Americans since May, and 16% (from 63% to 47%) among Black Americans during the same period.
However, there was also greater than average anxiety about income loss among certain groups.
The poll found that 66% of Hispanic adults, 65% of mothers, and over 60% of millennials and Gen Zers were among the groups most likely to worry about loss of income. (Nearly half of Gen Zers were also concerned about gun violence).
“If you look at scientific measures of social stress or social vulnerability, the factors that are associated with increased risk of ill health are all affected by financial stress,” Dr. Timothy B. Sullivan, chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Staten Island University Hospital, part of Northwell Health in New York, told Healthline.
“We know that social vulnerability or social determinants of health have an important and often unseen impact on both physical and mental well-being,” he continued.
According to Sullivan, when people feel a loss of control over things that are important in their daily life, it not only causes psychological distress but over time, it could also have adverse effects on their physical health.
“APA’s recent Stress in America study found that 72% of Americans reported feeling stressed about money at least sometime in the prior month,” said Carmen Nicole Katsarov, LPCC, CCM, executive director at Behavioral Health Integration at CalOptima in Orange County, California.
She pointed out that as a health plan for low-income people, CalOptima sees the impact financial stress has on its members, both physically and psychologically, on a daily basis.
“When someone has a decrease in the ability to afford the basic things related to living, such as food and housing,” she said, “it can lead to feelings of despair and hopelessness that can increase the likelihood of a serious mental health condition, especially when someone cannot see a way out of their situation.”
Katsarov added this had been associated with an increase in suicidal thoughts or actions. “Chronic stress can impact all areas of someone’s life, including self-esteem, work, and personal relationships,” she said.
“Psychiatrists, as well as other health professionals, do need to be reminded to pay attention to social determinants of health, which are often given less attention than what we think of as typical psychological stressors,” Sullivan said.
He emphasized the benefits of building a supportive network to help manage stress.
“What’s important is to understand the signs and consequences of stress, to work to establish a supportive network both at work and at home,” he said. “And to ask for help when you feel you’re struggling.”
When distress becomes unsafe
Sullivan said that if loved ones are concerned about a friend or family member, they may encourage the individual to seek help if they’re worried for their safety and well-being.
“Whether to speak to a mental health care professional depends on the degree to which someone is unable to manage their daily responsibilities, or whether they’re experiencing such mental distress that’s unsafe,” he added.
There are a few ways you can cope with stress and anxiety caused by financial strain due to inflation.
Lean on friends and family
Sullivan said that sharing concerns about financial stress with friends or family is often a good way to start.
“There is nothing wrong with leaning on family and friends for support,” he said, adding that it’s important to let those close to you know you’re experiencing stress and need their support.
Seek professional help
Connecting with a mental health professional may also be helpful to manage stress related to finances. However, the decision to seek professional help depends on how severely someone is affected by their money stress.
Work with a financial planner
For those who can afford it, hiring a financial planner could pay off. Katsarov said that some people may be able to access a financial planner or credit counselor through their work benefits.
Connect with community
According to Katsarov, community-based organizations can help connect people to available governmental or state programs for aid, like rent assistance, utility assistance, and food resources.
“Community-based organizations can assist people who don’t have access to traditional financial resources,” she added.
While it’s important to stay informed about what’s happening in the world, particularly as it pertains to the economy, the constant stream of negative information in the media may also increase anxiety and stress.
“It can be helpful for many to limit the amount of information by setting certain times of day to absorb it,” Katsarov recommended. She said too much negative information could cause a range of physical and emotional reactions, including:
- sleep disturbances or lethargy
- sadness and grief
- feelings of withdrawal
Despite that COVID-related anxiety in the U.S. appears to be fading, many Americans are worried about inflation and potential loss of income.
If rising gas prices and costs of living have you feeling anxious, remember there are community-based organizations you can lean on for support, in addition to your loved ones.
More importantly, it’s helpful to know the signs of stress and anxiety and to ask for help when you’re experiencing emotional difficulty due to financial strain.