This year has brought unexpected challenges and unprecedented action to all of our lives. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted nearly all aspects of daily life and has claimed the lives of over 200,000 Americans. The murder of George Floyd and the renewed calls and demonstrations for social justice that followed shocked and galvanized the nation and the world. An emerging conversation about the mental health effects of social media intensified with the release of the popular documentary “The Social Dilemma.” All of these events are also taking place against the backdrop of a fiercely contested general election.
These events, which have dominated the media landscape, combined with long-term uncertainty can create stress, anxiety and other mental health impacts. They can also cause people to lean on unhealthy coping strategies, like substance use.
We’ve been conducting research to better understand what’s affecting mental health and substance use in our communities and which events have been most impactful. With election season reaching its peak, we also wanted to take a look at how members of political parties are experiencing the events of 2020. The results showed that many respondents reported higher rates of drug and alcohol use, as well as mental health symptoms. The results were even more striking when we looked at the differences between party affiliations and how members are handling stress and coping with COVID-19. Here’s what we found.
We surveyed 1,000 people about their mental health and past-month drug and alcohol use.
Note: Some questions asked respondents to select each option that applied, so in a few instances, the total percentage will be greater than one hundred.
Survey respondents who identified themselves as Republicans reported drug use at a higher rate than their Democratic or Independent peers. The most significant differences in the rates were between Republicans and Independents.
Survey respondents were asked to select the reasons for their substance use. They were also asked to identify the biggest reason behind their past-month use. More than six in ten across all groups said coping with stress was one reason for substance use, but coping with mental health symptoms, boredom and recreational use were also popular responses. There were differences between the groups as well.
Majorities across all groups agreed that COVID-19 had impacted their mental health. While symptoms of anxiety, depression and anger were reported at similar rates across groups, Democrats were 20% more likely than Republicans and 8% more likely than Independents to report sleep issues.
This year has brought together a myriad of circumstances with the potential to harm mental health. While each group reported a number of factors impacting their mental health, many of these seem to be affecting Democrats more than Republicans or Independents.
When asked to identify the biggest stressor on their mental health:
Regardless of why, U.S. adults are more stressed and anxious as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and other events that are currently taking place. As COVID-19 persists and the 2020 election continues to intensify, access to mental health care and substance use treatment will become even more critical for overall health and wellbeing.
When asked about current participation or consideration of therapy:
These results show there is still work to do to encourage those seeking treatment and connecting everyone with the resources they need. Therapeutic intervention is an important way to treat mental health symptoms as well as underlying causes of substance use. The same way you don’t have to hit rock bottom to get help for addiction, you don’t have to wait until you’re in crisis to get mental health help. Those considering treatment can significantly improve their daily lives and reduce symptoms by participating in mental health counseling.
As a behavioral health care provider and leader in addiction and mental health treatment, we are dedicated to raising awareness and expanding access to high-quality treatment. We serve our local communities at our facilities located around the country and through telehealth options for those who are unable or uncomfortable with traveling. Helping individuals to manage their mental health and break patterns of substance use is not only a critical way to repair families, it also supports the overall health and wellbeing of our communities.
If you or someone you know needs support with substance use or mental health concerns, The Recovery Village can help. We offer a full continuum of care, including telehealth for ongoing outpatient treatment and teletherapy for substance use and mental health conditions. Contact us to learn more about a personalized treatment plan that can meet your needs and get you started on the path to recovery.
For press inquiries about these results and other survey data, email [email protected].
The Recovery Village has several, free resources for those living with addiction or mental health conditions and their loved ones. From videos, to clinically-hosted webinars and recovery meetings, to helpful, medically-reviewed articles, there is something for everyone. If you need more direct help, please reach out to one of our representatives.