Inflation causes Americans’ mental health to decline, study finds

More than two years into a pandemic that has wreaked havoc on their mental health, Americans are facing another challenge that is expected to strain their emotional well-being: inflation.

That’s based on a new report from mental health platform LifeWorks, which observed a decline in the mental health of American workers from April to May of this year. According to LifeWorks’ monthly Mental Health Index, one-fifth of Americans struggle to meet their basic needs due to inflation, and those 20% had mental health scores 16 points lower than the national average. .

“We find that there is a relationship between how people experience inflation and their mental health,” said Paula Allen, global leader and senior vice president of research and total wellbeing at LifeWorks.

The index, which surveys some 5,000 people, looks at how workers cope with mental health issues and how their ability to do so changes over time. The latest findings arrived this month.

Also noted in the report, 15% of Americans don’t think their housing will be secure next year, and 48% have cut spending due to inflation. Several factors are at play, including the prolonged isolation of the pandemic, but the main culprit is uncertainty.

“When you’re struggling to meet your basic needs — rent, food, and transportation — then you have a lot of uncertainty in your life,” Allen said. “There’s no way it doesn’t impact people’s thinking, behavior, emotions and overall health.”

Even if a person doesn’t lose their job due to inflation or an impending recession, Allen explained, having reduced work hours or worrying about long-term job security can be just as harmful. for mental health.

“Uncertainty is actually worse in some ways,” Allen said. “We are currently in another phase of uncertainty because we do not know if prices will go back up. You do not know if you will be well tomorrow or if you will be able to supplement your income or reorganize your savings. ”

In December, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued a public notice officially announcing a “mental health crisis” among young people. And while the demand for mental health care has increased since the start of the pandemic, mental health professionals like therapists and psychiatrists are struggling to meet that demand.

“Unfortunately, the access problem is likely to get worse before it gets better,” Allen predicted. “It’s not just about adding corps or more training, more advisers. We need to think about digital healthcare, peer support and a number of other things to make sure people get what they need.

However, individuals and employers can deal with the growing crisis in several ways. From an individual perspective, Allen recommended having a plan in place for financial emergencies, job loss or other obstacles.

“It is important to reflect on a situation [in advance], that you’re going to do that if gas prices get to that point, or you’re going to change what you’re doing in terms of groceries, or look for a second source of income,” she explained. “Having a plan puts you in control, and control is really important.”

“Now is the time to review your finances, become more savvy, and build your emergency savings,” Allen added. “We find that having emergency savings makes a difference in terms of people feeling they have at least a cushion – and not feeling so vulnerable.”

Although feeling a sense of isolation may seem inevitable in the post-pandemic world, social connection remains integral, Allen said. “The last thing we should shrink in our lives is other people.”

She also suggested employee assistance programs, which often provide access to a toll-free counselor or a 24/7 crisis line.

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