The pandemic’s devastating mental health effects are slowing — but less so in the South

A new report shows that while fewer Americans report experiencing certain mental illness symptoms, the rate of decrease in the South lags the rest of the nation. 

Specifically, Louisiana, Tennessee, West Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and Kentucky saw the least amount of change from 2020 to 2021, the report shows. 

In Tennessee, for example, 38 percent of Tennesseans said they experienced anxiety in August 2020. A year later, 32 percent of people responded the same way. 

That’s a 12 percent drop. In comparison, the states with the largest declines, like Connecticut, Rhode Island and Mississippi, saw a drop in anxiety and depression levels of 30 percent or more.

Nearly one of three people in both Louisiana and Tennessee reported feeling anxiety and nearly 30 percent say they are depressed, in comparison to the nationwide averages of 27 percent for anxiety and 22 percent for depression, according to the new report from Lending Tree. The report compares the highest levels of anxiety and depression from the 2020 pandemic to the levels in early January 2021. The report also tracks changes through August 2021. 

The report shows that the South is home to seven of the top 10 states with the highest reported levels of depression and six of the ten states with the highest reported levels of anxiety. 

Overall, the majority of people experiencing anxiety and depression are between the ages of 18 and 29. Almost 50 percent of Gen Z and younger Millennials reported experiencing depression in August 2021, a 16% decrease compared to January 2021. 

Research experts say these numbers can be attributed to a lack of mental health resources in the respective states and communities. Only 41 percent of adults who suffer from one or more mental illnesses received care, according to the report from Lending Tree. This lack of access coupled with pandemic-related job loss made finding accessible resources even more difficult. 

For tips on how to find accessible, affordable mental health resources, check out our previous reporting: Finding therapists, mental health resources that don’t break the bank

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