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3 Scary Findings Re: How Americans Are
Managing COVID-19 Stress (or Not)

Even before COVID-19, Americans were stressed-out. That’s according to multiple sources, including the American Psychological Association (APA)’s 2017 “Stress in America” survey. It called America a “stressed-out nation,” on the basis of findings like these:

  • 63 percent of respondents said “the future of the nation” was a “significant source of stress.”
  • 62 percent reported being stressed over money.
  • And, 3 out of 4 Americans reported at least one symptom of stress within the previous month, whether insomnia (45 percent), nervousness (36 percent), or fatigue (34 percent) due to stress.

If those were the stats on stress before the pandemic, how are Americans managing now? To answer this question, a survey by the national treatment provider FHE Health in April (“Stress Awareness Month”) focused on two important stress metrics—drug and alcohol consumption and mental health. What follow are three rather shocking indications of how Americans are coping with COVID-19-related stress.

#1 Alcohol Consumption in America Is Way Up

Americans are drinking a lot. The health dangers of too much alcohol are well-established.

Within this context, consider the jaw-dropping finding that an overwhelming majority of respondents (76 percent) said they “stockpiled” alcohol in preparation for quarantine. (Move over, toilet paper.)

Equally shocking was how respondents were spending their stimulus check. Of the 36 percent who had received these funds, a whopping 30 percent (almost one in three people) were spending their new cash on alcohol. By contrast, only 7 percent had spent their check on “essentials.”

#2 Why Americans Are Boozing Big Time

Americans are drinking because they’re bored. People may over-indulge in alcohol for various reasons. One big reason is to “self-medicate”: to relieve or dull difficult or painful feelings. Quite often, in fact, these stress-related symptoms (anxiety, depression, etc.) are signs of a treatable mental health condition, or “dual diagnosis,” that’s feeding the problem drinking.

Strikingly, though, while anxiety was the most frequently reported mental health symptom among respondents, a full 40 percent agreed with the statement, “I find myself drinking because I’m bored.” In other words, during the age of COVID-19 and quarantining and social distancing, boredom is a major trigger for drinking. (Does it surpass anxiety as a trigger? That’s a question for the next, follow-up survey.)

#3 Americans Are Getting High on the Job

19 percent of survey respondents reported being high or on a non-prescription drug during work hours. As perspective—before the Coronavirus outbreak, illicit drugs in the workplace were already on the rise, according to multiple sources. Meanwhile, the nation’s opiate epidemic—a major contributor to the trend—continued to rage on. Such was the reality when record numbers of Americans suddenly began working from home in March 2020.

Still, the finding that nearly one in five respondents has been under the influence or high when working from home is … alarming. Does it reinforce projections of experts at Harvard Medical School and others that the opiate epidemic will only worsen now, thanks to its intersection with COVID-19? Maybe. Time will tell.

What these three findings do suggest is that Americans are potentially more stressed-out than ever—and in many cases turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms.


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