Mental Health Index Finds 62% Drop in Employee Focus; 48% Increase in Risk of Depression

Data shows dangerous decline and all-time low in Americans’ mental health; likely due to holidays, political uncertainties and continuing COVID-19 stressors


SAN FRANCISCO and WASHINGTON, Jan. 28, 2021 –The state of mind of the U.S. workforce does not reflect the optimism and mental health relief hoped for with the availability of the COVID-19 vaccines. Quite the opposite. According to the Mental Health Index: U.S. Worker Edition, between November and December there was a 48% increase in the risk of depression – a perilous risk level not seen since the height of the pandemic this past spring. Further, employees’ focus dropped 62% – a record low since the inception of the research in February 2020.


The brain assessments, used to generate data for the latest Mental Health Index, were taken during the holiday season, an often anxiety-inducing time of year made more stressful by COVID19. Women showed a 46% rise in risk for general anxiety disorder between November and December. Further, at the end of December, women’s stress levels were 22% higher than their male counterparts.


“Heightened stress during the holidays is anticipated, especially for women who often bear the brunt of holiday planning,” noted Louis Gagnon, CEO, Total Brain. “However, the Mental Health Index numbers are disconcerting just the same. We are seeing an unprecedented rise in risk of mental health conditions. At the same time, we are witnessing a sharp decline in cognitive functions. This is a crisis that should alarm everyone in the business community. Business policies designed to support the mental health of employees are essential. There is another pandemic going on, the mental health pandemic for which there will be no vaccine.”


The Mental Health Index: U.S. Worker Edition, powered by Total Brain, a mental health and brain performance self-monitoring and self-care platform, is distributed in partnership with the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, One Mind at Work, and the HR Policy Association and its American Health Policy Institute.


“After a prolonged period of environmental stress, the concerns about the mental health of our workforce are reaching new peaks,” said Michael Thompson, National Alliance president and CEO. “Moving the vaccination strategy forward cannot come fast enough in our efforts to get back to normal.”


“More than ever before during the pandemic, employees are struggling and employers have an obligation to identify new ways to support the mental health of their workforce,” said Garen Staglin, chairman of workplace wellbeing coalition One Mind at Work. “The data is showing what we’re all experiencing – a year into the pandemic, it is hard to focus and not to be depressed by the raging pandemic. We must maintain focus, as this is a marathon not a sprint.”


Executive vice president of the American Health Policy Institute and strategic advisor for HR Policy Association Colleen McHugh said, “The findings of this report demonstrate the intensified anxiety and stress during the holiday season coupled with employee focus at a record low since the beginning of the pandemic period. While these results are clearly going in the wrong direction, our greatest hope is that Americans can begin to experience some relief with increased vaccine production, distribution and through the ongoing safety guidelines focusing on well-being from their employers. We hope that these measures will start to advance better mental health results over the weeks and months to come.”


The full Mental Health Index results can be found here. For more information and additional insights there will be a complimentary 30-minute webinar on Friday, November 20 at 12 p.m. ET. Joining Gagnon, Thompson and McHugh are Katy Schneider Riddick, Director of Strategy and Engagement, One Mind at Work and James Garvie, SVP HR, Total Rewards & Technology, Southern Company. Register here:


Methodology: The Mental Health Index: U.S. Worker Edition contains data drawn from a weekly randomized sample of 500 working Americans taken from a larger universe of Total Brain users. The Index is NOT a survey or a poll. Data is culled from neuroscientific brain assessments using standardized digital tasks and questions from the Total Brain platform. Participants include workers from all walks of life and regions, job levels, occupations, industries, and types of organizations (public vs. private). The brain assessments used to compile the Mental Health Index were taken weekly from February 3 to November 3, 2020.


About Total Brain: Total Brain is based in San Francisco and publicly listed in Sydney, AUS (ASX:TTB). Total Brain is a mental health and brain performance self-monitoring and self-care platform that has more than 1M registered users. Benefits for employers and payers include better mental healthcare access, lower costs and higher productivity.


About the National Alliance: The National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions (National Alliance) is the only nonprofit, purchaser-led organization with a national and regional structure dedicated to driving health and healthcare value across the country. Its members represent private and public sector, nonprofit, and Taft-Hartley organizations, and more than 45 million Americans spending over $300 billion annually on healthcare.


About One Mind: One Mind at Work is a leading mental health non-profit that catalyzes comprehensive action across the scale of the brain health crisis, working from science to patients to society. Moving towards its VISION of HEALTHY BRAINS FOR ALL, One Mind is accelerating treatments and cures for mental disorders and providing hope to patients and their families. Launched in 2017, One Mind at Work is a global coalition of leaders from diverse sectors who have joined together to transform approaches to mental health and addiction. One Mind at Work now includes more than 25 global employers and 18 research and content partners. The coalition covers nearly 6 million people under its charter.


HR Policy Association: HR Policy Association is the lead organization representing Chief Human Resource Officers at major employers. The Association consists of over 390 of the largest corporations doing business in the United States and globally, and these employers are represented in the organization by their most senior human resource executive. Collectively, their companies employ more than 10 million employees in the United States, over nine percent of the private sector workforce, and 20 million employees worldwide. These senior corporate officers participate in the Association because of their commitment to improving the direction of human resource policy.


American Health Policy Institute: American Health Policy Institute is a non-partisan non-profit think tank, started by the HR Policy Foundation that examines the practical implications of health policy changes through the lens of large employers.  The Institute examines the challenges employers face in providing health care to their employees and recommends policy solutions to promote the provision of affordable, high-quality, employer-based health care.  The Institute serves to provide thought leadership grounded in the practical experience of America’s largest employers. Their mission is to develop impactful strategies to ensure that those purchasing health care are able to not only bend the cost curve, but actually break it, by keeping health care cost inflation in line with general inflation.


Media Contact:
Kelly Faville
Rocket Social Impact

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