Well-Being Mental Health

Nearly half of young adults struggled with mental health during pandemic

“Despite the development of virtual platforms for providing mental health services, the current need for services far exceeds the capacity to provide them,” said Charles Irwin Jr. a professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco.
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Story at a glance

  • Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) used a sample of 2,809 adults ages 18-25 from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey data to evaluate the scope of anxiety and depression symptoms from June through early July 2021.

  • They found 48 percent of young adults reported mental health symptoms. 

  • More than a third with symptoms reported being unable to receive needed counseling treatment. 

Nearly half of young adults in the U.S. experienced mental health symptoms during the middle of the pandemic’s second year, according to a new study.  

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) used a sample of 2,809 adults ages 18-25 years from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey data to evaluate the scope of anxiety and depression symptoms from June through early July 2021. They found 48 percent of young adults reported mental health symptoms.  

Meanwhile, 39 percent of the sampled population with symptoms indicated they used prescription medications, while more than a third reported being unable to receive needed counseling treatment.  

“Given that only about one third of those with symptoms received care, we might have expected to see closer to two-thirds reporting unmet need,” said Sally Adams, a specialist in UCSF’s Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine.  

“It could be that the people with symptoms who didn’t report unmet need either didn’t think their symptoms were serious enough for treatment or feared the stigma of needing mental health services,” Adams added.  

The teams’ findings showed a decline from a year prior. A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 63 percent of young adults experienced symptoms of depression or anxiety in June 2020.  

Charles Irwin, a professor of pediatrics at UCSF, said the study suggests there is a need to improve the mental health apparatus to appropriately address mental health concerns. 

“Despite the development of virtual platforms for providing mental health services, the current need for services far exceeds the capacity to provide them,” Irwin said.  


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A government-backed task force on Tuesday recommended early screening for depression and anxiety. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force said children should be screened for anxiety beginning at age 8, while children 12 and up should be evaluated for depression.  

Screenings should take place regardless of whether the children are showing symptoms of either condition.  

“To address the critical need for supporting the mental health of children and adolescents in primary care, the Task Force looked at the evidence on screening for anxiety, depression, and suicide risk,” task force member Martha Kubik said in a statement. “Fortunately, we found that screening older children for anxiety and depression is effective in identifying these conditions so children and teens can be connected to the support they need.”