Well-Being Mental Health

Americans’ self-assessment of mental health lowest in two decades: Gallup

Only 31 percent of Americans consider their mental health excellent.
Brain image.

Story at a glance

  • That total is 20 percentage points lower than a record number of Americans who said the same in 2004.

  • However, over the past couple of decades more Americans sought mental health care, particularly young adults and women.

  • Researchers suggest the findings likely reflect the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Just 31 percent of Americans classify their mental health or emotional well-being as excellent, marking a new historic low by three percentage points. 

That’s according to a Gallup poll released Wednesday based on a Nov. 9-Dec. 2 survey. Another 44 percent of respondents considered their mental health “good.” Combined, the 75 percent of Americans who consider their mental health good or excellent marks the lowest on record, while 17 percent say their mental health is just fair.

The remaining 7 percent who say they have poor mental health is also the highest total recorded since 2001.

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Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, a mental health crisis was emerging among young Americans. However, the immense social changes brought on by the pandemic exacerbated these rates, and led to increased feelings of depression and anxiety among U.S. adults as well. 

Gallup data show the percent of Americans with self-reported excellent mental health peaked in 2004, at 51 percent. By 2020, that number declined to a then-historic low of 34 percent, while before the COVID-19 pandemic, the figure hovered around 45 percent on average.

The new low suggests that even though the pandemic has improved, some of its effects linger, Gallup authors wrote.

“These include economic concerns precipitated by the highest inflation rate in more than four decades,” they added. 

Data show women, young adults between the ages 18 and 34, and individuals with lower annual household incomes are least likely to positively rate their mental health. Higher incomes have been linked with improved day-to-day well-being and overall life satisfaction. 

But as more people report worsened mental health, they’re also seeking treatment. Twenty-three percent of respondents say they’ve visited a mental health professional within the past year, compared with just 13 percent who said the same in 2004. Young adults and women are also more likely to have sought mental health care treatment.

Average number of visits to a specialist has also increased from 1.5 in 2004 to 3.2 in 2022. Authors hypothesize this uptick could be due to the pandemic, a growing understanding of the importance of mental health and reduced stigma associated with seeking treatment. 

It could also be the result of insurers changing how they cover mental health treatment.

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