According to a new poll released by the American Psychological Association, strained social relationships and reduced social support during the pandemic have made coping with stress more difficult.
Fifty-six percent of those surveyed said they could have used more emotional support than they received since the beginning of the pandemic.
“We know from decades of research that healthy and supportive relationships are key to promoting resilience and building people’s mental wellness,” said Dr. Arthur C. Evans Jr., the American Psychology Association’s chief executive officer.
“Particularly during periods of prolonged stress, it’s important that we facilitate opportunities for social connection and support,” he said.
Overall, respondents listed inflation, money issues and the war in Ukraine as top issues that have pushed U.S. stress to alarming levels.
When broken down, however, 75 percent of Latino and 67 percent of Black adults identified money as a significant stressor more frequently than whites (63 percent) and Asian (57 percent) adults.
Similarly, the poll found Latino adults more likely than others to note the economy as a significant source of stress – 65 percent of Black respondents, 63 percent of whites and 60 percent of Asian individuals identified the economy as a significant stressor.
Approximately 47 percent of adults admitted carrying out less physical activity than desired at the beginning of the pandemic. Fifty-eight percent said they’ve experienced undesired weight changes.
The report revealed that individuals between 18 and 25, parents, Latino, Black adults and essential workers indicated undesirable weight gains during the pandemic.
“Among those who gained more weight than they wanted, the average amount of weight gained was 26 pounds, with a median of 15 pounds,” the report authors wrote. “On the other hand, the average amount of weight lost among those who lost more than they wanted to be 27 pounds, with a median of 15 pounds.”
While the poll included a mix of Americans, an earlier study concluded that research remains a need for experts to understand and address stress management processes and mental health in Black adults in general and older Black adults in particular.
A December 2021 study conducted by psychologists at North Carolina State University found that the responses to pandemic stress were more pronounced for Black adults regardless of age.
That study found that when experiencing or anticipating pandemic stress, younger Black adults, between the ages of 21 and 30, had more anxiety and depressive symptoms than older white adults experiencing similar stress.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted system inequities that place Black adults at greater risk of adverse health outcomes and our findings reflect that,” Ann Pearman said.
She helped author the university study paper while working at Georgia Tech.
“Simply put, the stress of the pandemic appears to be placing a greater mental health burden on Black Americans. This is playing out in people’s everyday lives, and it has been going on for well over a year and a half now,” she said.
Shevaun Neupert, a co-author of the study and a professor of psychology at North Carolina State University, concluded that public narratives about the pandemic have often focused on elevated risks related to COVID-19 for both older and Black adults.
The study authors sought to discover whether Black adults were facing double jeopardy, experiencing more pandemic-related mental health challenges than their white counterparts.
“We found that age was only a factor for white adults,” Neupert said. “Black adults were experiencing significant, pandemic-related mental health challenges regardless of age. This finding suggests that we need to support the development of culturally competent interventions that address the needs of Black adults and older white adults.”