Health Issues Caused by Pandemic-Related Stress

Richard Franki

July 29, 2020

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

Over the last 2 months, more than half of Americans have experienced some sort of adverse effect caused by stress related to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF).


More than a third (36%) of the 1,313 respondents said they either had difficulty sleeping, falling asleep, or sleeping too much, KFF said in its latest Health Tracking Poll, conducted July 14-19, 2020. That was followed by poor appetite or overeating, which was mentioned by 32% of those surveyed.

Other adverse effects included frequent headaches or stomachaches (18%), temper-control issues (18%), increased drug or alcohol use (12%), and worsening of chronic conditions such as diabetes or hypertension (12%). Altogether, 52% of Americans have had at least one of these issues in the past 2 months, Liz Hamel and associates at KFF reported.

When asked directly whether worry or stress had has a negative effect on their overall mental health, 53% of the respondents said yes, breaking down to 26% reporting a major impact and 28% reporting a minor impact (figures have been rounded), they said.

"As life with the coronavirus pandemic wears on, Americans increasingly say it is taking a negative toll on their mental health," the investigators wrote. Earlier polls showed that pandemic-related stress was having an impact on mental health for 39% of respondents in May, compared with 45% in early April and 32% in March.

In the July poll, Black adults were much more likely to report a negative mental health impact (68%) than were Hispanics or Whites, who were both at 51%. Age was also a factor: The youngest group of respondents (ages 18-29 years) had the highest negative-impact rate (62%), and the oldest group (65 years and older) had the lowest (47%), they said.

When it came to reporting the adverse effects of stress or worry, however, the situation was somewhat different. Hispanics had the highest rate of such effects at 63%, while Blacks had a rate of 57% and 47% of Whites reported issues with sleep, eating, temper, and other problems, Ms. Hamel and associates reported.

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