WEDNESDAY, July 7, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- In the middle of a pandemic that sent many Americans into bouts of emotional distress, one-quarter of them couldn't get counseling when they needed it the most, new research shows.
"Social isolation, COVID-related anxiety, disruptions in normal routines, job loss and food insecurity have led to a surge in mental illness during the pandemic," explained lead author Dr. Jason Nagata, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco.
His team analyzed data from nearly 70,000 adults who took part in a U.S. Census survey in December 2020.
Nearly 40% reported depression or anxiety symptoms during the pandemic. Overall, 13% said they had an unmet need for mental health counseling, including 25% of respondents with depression or anxiety symptoms.
The unmet need for counseling was twice as high among women than men, and also higher among young adults than older adults, according to findings published June 30 in the journal Psychiatric Services.
Why? Nagata had a ready explanation.
"Women have disproportionately borne the burden of child care and caregiving for older adults during the pandemic," he said. "Young adults have felt socially isolated and experienced high rates of job loss."
Study co-author Kyle Ganson said social workers and medical professionals need to screen for symptoms of anxiety and depression and help patients access mental health care.
"Telepsychiatry and telemental health services can improve access for people with unmet mental health needs," Ganson added. He's an assistant professor of social work at the University of Toronto.
During the pandemic, Nagata noted, patients have experienced months-long waiting lists for counseling or therapy.
"Policymakers should include more funding for mental health services as part of pandemic relief legislation and extend the use of telehealth to address the widespread unmet mental health needs of Americans," he added.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on therapy and counseling.
SOURCE: University of California, San Francisco, news release, June 30, 2021