What goes up must come down. The latest CivicScience Well-Being Index reading shows that the springtime boost in Americans’ emotional well-being took a hit at the beginning of May, falling from 57% to 55%. Even so, numbers are still floating well above the low point seen in March, which was clearly related to the invasion of Ukraine.

The noticeable decline earlier this month occurred the same time the Roe v. Wade court document was leaked. But expectations that women would be more negatively affected by the news are surprisingly countered by the data. Survey results show that well-being fell two percentage points for both women and men the first week of May. 

On the one hand, that suggests that both women and men were equally roiled by the court leak, even though CivicScience data indicate women are more likely to strongly oppose overturning Roe v. Wade than men. On the other hand, the decline could also be related to other factors, such as inflation and rising prices.

That said, women have consistently reported a lower sense of emotional well-being than men by six or more percentage points throughout 2022 – an alarmingly concerning gap.

Survey results also show that emotional well-being fell the first week of May among Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike. The social unrest unleashed by the leak may have impacted well-being regardless of opinion on the matter, although findings earlier this month revealed that the majority of the Gen Pop opposes overturning Roe v. Wade

However, Republicans and Independents have largely recovered whereas Democrats’ well-being continues to slide, which further correlates feelings of emotional well-being today with the looming Supreme Court decision and possibly the upcoming midterm elections.

Emotional Well-Being and Mental Health

Emotional well-being – which CivicScience measures as how strongly someone reports feeling a range of different emotional markers, such as happiness, stress, and sadness – is intimately connected with overall well-being and mental health. In light of Mental Health Awareness Month, CivicScience took a brief look at the state of mental health and healthcare today. 

Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety and depression are serious health concerns worldwide. The WHO estimates that the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a 25% increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression across the globe, with young people and women being the most affected.

A recent CivicScience survey finds a startlingly high number of adults report battling anxiety and depression. Nearly half of U.S. adults say they or someone in their household have been treated for anxiety and/or depression (excluding those who prefer not to answer) (n=3,386). Since those are people who have actually been diagnosed, it’s likely the numbers of Americans affected by anxiety and depression are even higher.

In line with the WHO’s report, the data show that women (and non-binary individuals) are indeed more likely to report higher levels of anxiety and depression.

Therapy and Teletherapy Usage

As we saw from numbers earlier this year, a significant percentage of young adults (under age 35) used mental healthcare services over the COVID-19 pandemic, many of whom tried them for the first time. Today, current numbers indicate that one in three U.S. adults have engaged in talk therapy with a mental health professional. However, just 6% of the population is currently in therapy, while more than half have never used therapy and don’t plan to (n=3,118).

Teletherapy, or virtual therapy, offered a safe way to access mental healthcare over the pandemic, as well as opportunities for people living in more remote or rural areas to connect with care providers. Today, 19% of adults have tried teletherapy (n=2,932). More than half say they liked it – and an additional 11% are interested in using it. That’s a relatively high number of intenders, given that 13% are interested in talk therapy at all (as shown in the previous chart) and that COVID is much less of a concern today.

Barriers to Care

Many individuals said insurance issues and limited provider availability held them back from accessing mental healthcare services over the pandemic. A look at other kinds of concerns that may be keeping people from seeking care right now shows that among the majority of those not currently in therapy, more than half feel they don’t need care at the moment (n=2,192). However, for those who might feel they do need care, primary reasons for avoiding it include feeling that therapy is ineffective; problems with cost and insurance coverage; and just not feeling comfortable with therapy / mental healthcare services in general.

Combating Stigma

A negative stigma attached to mental health and healthcare may also play a role in keeping more people from getting help – something Mental Health Awareness Month focuses on fighting.

Currently, nearly 60% of the Gen Pop feels that society judges people who seek care for their mental health. A little over one-quarter lean more toward feeling that they are generally accepted (n=3,826).

However, in contrast, the same percentage of respondents (59%) say they would feel at least “somewhat” comfortable telling others that they were in therapy or counseling, while over one-quarter would not feel comfortable (n=2,692). 

If the data are any indication, the general public is possibly more accepting of mental illness and treatment than most people think it is. This corresponds with some public health research that reports a decrease in stigma associated with certain conditions, such as depression.

When it comes to communicating with others, the majority of people (86%) say they have at least one person they can talk to about their own mental health. Nearly half of people say they can talk to their spouse or partner, while around 40% feel comfortable talking to their doctor or therapist, friends, and/or family members (n=2,365). 

However, 14% of survey respondents say they don’t feel they can talk to anyone about their mental health. People who answered “I don’t feel I can talk to anyone about it” are more likely to be in the Gen X generation, White, lower-income earners, and women.

Taking Mental Health Days 

It’s likely the perceived stigma attached to mental health bleeds into the workplace. Just 9% of people reported they could talk to their supervisor or coworker about their mental health. And a survey looking at taking “mental health days” off from work suggests that most Americans don’t, at least not on a regular basis. Close to 40% of employed adults take at least one mental health day per year, while the remainder don’t take any but wish they did or simply don’t plan to (n=1,932).

Likewise, just over 70% of employed respondents say their employer does not encourage them to take mental health days off of work (n=1,855). And among the 30% who do work for employers that support mental health days, nearly half choose not to take them.

Mental health issues are systemic in our society, especially today, and certain groups, particularly women, are disproportionately affected. High levels of anxiety and depression, chronic stress, and volatile emotional well-being place a precedence on connecting people to care. And they also ask healthcare professionals to consider why people avoid care.

While the numbers suggest that awareness of mental health and treatment, acceptance of it, and openness to talking about it may be improving, therapy numbers remain low. And at least in the workplace, both U.S. employees and employers are still largely unlikely to prioritize mental health and emotional well-being. So, perhaps Mental Health Awareness Month is needed more than ever. 

What is the CivicScience Well-Being Index? 

Everything affects everything – that includes how a person feels at any given moment in time. The CivicScience Well-Being Index rapidly captures the collective emotional well-being of the population on a daily basis by asking thousands of survey respondents to report on how strongly they feel different emotions. Through living indexes like the Well-Being Index, CivicScience helps businesses and organizations better understand what’s driving consumer choices, empowering them with the data-driven insight needed to navigate our rapidly changing times.