(NEWS10) – Getting vaccinated for COVID-19 could improve mental health. According to a report from the New York State Health Foundation (NYSHealth), New Yorkers who had at least one dose of a vaccine were 20% less likely to report symptoms of poor mental health.
The report looked at the mental health of New Yorkers over time and how COVID continues to exacerbate symptoms of poor mental health, which include anxiety and depression.
In the early days of the pandemic, when a majority of New Yorkers were homebound, mental health professionals sounded the alarm on the toll that confinement and lack of social interaction would take on people. The state and counties sprung into action making mental health professionals available by phone to help struggling New Yorkers.
More than a third of New Yorkers (35%) reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depression in May 2020. NYSHealth said reported poor mental health reached its peak (40%) in February 2021. By May 2021 the rate had gone down (32%), the first sustained decrease since the start of the pandemic.
Those rates are all higher than what was reported prior to the pandemic. The number of New Yorkers who reported poor mental health is two to three times higher post-pandemic, based on NYSHealth’s report.
The report found higher rates of anxiety and/or depression in those New Yorkers making less than $25k a year, of Hispanic descent, and young adults between the ages of 18-34. It also found food insecurity to be a driver of poor mental health.
Two times more New Yorkers with food insecurity reported poor mental health, compared with New Yorkers who said they were not food insecure. The trend was seen across all races, ethnicities, ages, and income groups.
Close to 50% of people with an income of $25k or less said they had experienced anxiety and/or depression the week before, while a quarter of New Yorkers making more than $50k reported feeling anxious or depressed. New Yorkers who had reported a loss of income in the past month were also 50% more likely to report poor mental health.
Compared to other racial and ethnic groups, NYSHealth said Hispanic New Yorkers reported poor mental health in larger proportions. They also said 45% of young adults ages 18-34 reported anxiety and/or depression, the largest percentage of any age group.
On the other side, it’s been difficult for mental health professionals to keep pace with the increased need for mental health services. Nearly 75% of licensed psychologists who treat people for anxiety disorders reported increased demand since the pandemic started, according to a survey conducted by the American Psychology Association (APA).
The survey indicated 60% of psychologists who treat people for depression experienced increased demand. Therapists also reported increased demand for the treatment of stress-related disorders, problems sleeping, and trauma.
“Mental health providers are, most certainly, struggling to keep up with increased demand for services. That, coupled with a workforce shortage, and the cumulative impact of higher acuity has made for an interesting experience for providers,” said Saint Peter’s Health Partners Executive Director of Behavioral Health, Rachel Handler.
Additionally, Handler said they are seeing a very steep increase in the use of telehealth. She said telehealth services increased by 2,700% from 2019 to 2020.
“We were already experiencing a mental health crisis with a shortage of clinical resources before the pandemic struck our community. COVID-19 has significantly increased the need for mental health care by putting further strain on an already overwhelmed system,” said Dr. Julie Morison, owner, and director of HPA LiveWell.
The APA said 30% of mental health providers who participated in its survey were unable to meet the demand for appointments, and more than four in 10 felt burnt out because of the increased demand for services.
“As a private practice in the Capital District, we have been working tirelessly to meet the needs of our community. While adopting a telehealth model has been helpful in serving the community, it has been almost impossible for us to serve all that call,” Dr. Morison said. “Adding several new clinicians to our practice family has become a top priority, as we would have their schedules filled in a matter of moments.”