When you look behind the terrible numbers, people are coming together in profound ways.
45% of people report that the coronavirus crisis has had a negative impact on their mental health.
That number, from a Kaiser Foundation study released in early April, is up from 32% in March. An increase in worry and stress fuels the jump.
People’s suffering shows the great concern we have for each other. While answers to questions about healthcare show people are worried about hospitals being overwhelmed and unable to treat them if they get sick, the largest reported stressor about the healthcare system is that so many (88%) worry that healthcare workers will not have enough protective equipment and may become ill themselves.
Of those healthcare workers, 64% believe they or a family member will get sick from the virus.
The focus on community, and how that focus impacts people’s levels of worry and stress, extends to the small businesses that survey respondents frequent. 85% fear businesses in their community will close permanently.
57%, up from 35% in March, believe they will get infected at work, but they can’t afford to stay home and must continue to go out and serve others.
Shockingly, 40% have lost their jobs or had wages or hours reduced because of the crisis. 72% of adults who earn less than $40,000 a year are in this group.
As reported numbers of new cases appear to be leveling, very few think the economy will return to pre-covid-19 levels. Slowly, the main stressors swing from the virus’ impact on health to the quarantine’s impact on the economy.
52% feel strongly that before the crisis is over they will be laid off or lose their job.
Even so, 80% feel “the U.S. should take measures aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus while more widespread testing becomes available, even if that means many businesses will have to stay closed.” Even if this entails great personal sacrifice on behalf of others.
Only 14% favor re-opening the economy sooner and facing the risk that potentially more people will continue to get sick and die.
Obviously, people care about others as much as, maybe even more than, they care about themselves. This community focus will help us rebuild when the health situation improves. But when it will improve is a big question.
Even with the measures taken so far, 75% believe the worst is yet to come. Only 13% say the worst is behind us.
When health and economic statistics combine, some of the most distressing numbers emerge. 53% believe they will not be able to afford testing if it becomes required for work, school or travel.
The impact of the crisis on the uninsured is doubly distressing. To quote from the study: “Prior to the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., there were already nearly 28 million people in the U.S. between ages 18 and 64 who did not have health insurance. While most of the uninsured have a full-time worker in their family, many report they do not have access to coverage through a job and some people, particularly lower-income adults in states that did not expand Medicaid, are ineligible for financial assistance to help pay for coverage.
“While Congress has provided some relief, this is limited to testing and is a state option. Among these includes almost 6 million uninsured people who are at high risk for a serious illness related to COVID-19. Overall, eight in ten (82%) uninsured adults ages 18-64 say they are worried about not being able to afford testing or treatment for coronavirus if they need it.”
Partisan numbers throughout the survey reveal a community coming together. Across almost all measures, in March Democrats thought the crisis was much worse than Republicans did. In April those numbers have converged, and the rank and file of both parties see a similar crisis and share similar concerns for community and needs for solutions.
With the negative impact worry and stress have on mental and physical health, people are beginning to seek help and treatment. It’s troublesome that, due to the overwhelming response to covid-19 patients, 34% have been unable to receive medical care for conditions unrelated to coronavirus.
Resources exist, but with people following social distancing measures (92%) and stay at home orders (88%), few can reach out for help. Telehealth and teletherapy are becoming more common and more accepted, although whether or not insurance will pay for these services is sketchy.
The world is changing. Just a few months ago these stressors were the stuff of dystopian fiction. Now it’s the world we live in. While on first glance the stats in the Kaiser Foundation report are bleak, a careful reading shows the great confidence we have in community, and the reliance we have on each other.
If we can hold that sense of community, we can overcome the challenges of this healthcare and economic crisis.
George Hofmann’s book Resilience: Handling Anxiety in a Time of Crisis is available now.