Story at a glance
- The United States has more cases of coronavirus than any other country in the world.
- A new study shows that in addition to affecting Americans’ physical health, the pandemic has taken a toll on their mental health.
- In comparison to other wealthy nations, the United States is much worse off, research shows.
The United States is No. 1 in the world for coronavirus cases, but — or perhaps as a result — falls below a number of other wealthy nations in a new analysis of mental health and economic consequences.
Research by the Commonwealth Fund compared responses from adults in the United States to those from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom. One-third of U.S. adults reported stress, anxiety and great sadness that was difficult to cope with by themselves, compared to about a quarter or less in other countries.
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The mental toll of the coronavirus pandemic is exacerbated by harsh economic realities for many Americans. More than 30 percent of U.S. respondents said they have struggled economically and were unable to pay for basic necessities, used up all their savings, or borrowed money, according to the survey. In Canada, 24 percent said the same, followed by 21 percent in Australia, but on the other end, only 6 to 7 percent of respondents reported the same in Germany and the Netherlands.
“As our country struggles with the surging number of cases and the economic havoc that the pandemic is wreaking, people in other countries are living a different, better, reality. Americans should realize that our country can do better, too. We can start by ensuring everyone can get and afford the health care they need, and by implementing public health measures, like mask-wearing, social distancing, and robust testing and tracing that can help us stop COVID-19 as so many others have effectively accomplished,” said David Blumenthal, President of the Commonwealth Fund.
Despite their trademark patriotism, Americans aren’t too happy about how their country has handled the coronavirus pandemic either. Only 33 percent of U.S. adults said President Trump has done either a “good” or “very good” job in his handling the coronavirus pandemic, compared to between 49 percent and 95 percent of respondents in other countries who approved of how their president or prime minister has dealt with the crisis. But the one common feeling across countries was an appreciation for health care workers’ response to the pandemic, with 78 percent to 96 percent of all countries saying that hospitals, nurses and doctors had done a good or very good job.
“In the U.S., the pandemic has taken a greater toll on people’s well-being when compared to other high-income countries. As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths in the U.S. continues to increase, policymakers — at all levels of government — should look abroad for innovative solutions. There are valuable lessons we can learn, particularly around improving access to mental health services, and addressing socioeconomic needs exacerbated by the pandemic,” said Reginald D. Williams II, lead author of the study and Commonwealth Fund’s Vice President for International Health Policy and Practice Innovations.
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