Mental Health Index

U.S. Worker Edition – March 2021 Update

Mental Health Worsened Among Workers Between the Ages of 40–59

Younger and Older Workers Are Currently Faring Better than Middle Age Group

The March Mental Health Index revealed some clear differences in workers based on their age. More specifically, the data shows some troubling trends for workers between the ages of 40-59. This age group is struggling more with symptoms of anxiety — such as fear and panic. Also, the risk of General Anxiety Disorder is up considerably among this population of workers, as is the risk of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). As a result, workers between the ages of 40-59 are having difficulty with planning — a sign of cognitive struggle. Younger and older working Americans are currently not exhibiting the same patterns across these mental capacities. In fact, the older and younger working populations are measuring no differently than they did prior to COVID in capacities where the 40-59 group worsened.

Best Case

Older and younger workers are experiencing less mental strain now vs. at other points during the pandemic.

Worst Case

A large population of workers — those between the ages of 40-59 — are noticeably struggling. However, because mental health has improved for some workers, those in the middle age group may not receive the support they need to deal with increased mental strain.

Every Case

As COVID-related restrictions start to lift, it is important to continue to monitor workers for signs of mental struggles. Returning to a pre-COVID mental state doesn’t mean perfect mental health. Workers in the U.S. were struggling with mental health challenges before the pandemic.

Don’t miss our monthly webinars where industry thought leaders gather to review the latest Mental Health Index data and discuss the mental health of working Americans.

State of Mental Health Among Working Americans

Anxiety Symptoms, Risk of Mental Conditions Elevated in Middle Age Workers

Workers Between the Ages of 40-59 Hit by Anxiety Symptoms

12%

Jump in workers feeling scared — a symptom of anxiety that has increased vs. pre-COVID

9%

Increase in feelings of panic caused by anxiety in middle age group of U.S. workers

Elevated Risk of General Anxiety Disorder in Middle Age Workers and Men

86%

Risk of General Anxiety Disorder is up in workers aged 40-59 vs. pre-COVID

53%

Men’s risk of General Anxiety Disorder has risen in the past two months

Risk of PTSD Rises Again in 40-59 Age Group

51%

Increased risk of PTSD since the beginning of 2021 in workers aged 40-59

63%

Rise in risk of PTSD vs. pre-COVID level for workers between the ages of 40-59

Get the latest Mental Health Index Report

Your Total Brain

Your brain’s 85 billion highly interconnected neurons self-organize into four core systems — emotion, feeling, cognition and self-control. Each of these systems is measured by 12 key capacities, and they fluctuate continuously along a performance continuum from well-being to risk of a mental health condition such as depression, addiction, and ADHD.

You Can Rewire Your Brain

Listen to Total Brain Founder Dr. Evian Gordan and Professor Anthony Hannan, PhD, discuss how to rewire your brain to better manage emotions, stress and anxiety. Listen to learn more.

Learn How Total Brain Can Help

Total Brain measures the 12 brain capacities that define your mental health and screens for your risk of common mental conditions. Contact us to learn how Total Brain can help improve the mental health and wellness of your employees.

Sign Up Today

Mental Health Index

The Mental Health Index data is updated monthly so our workers’ mental health capacities can be monitored through these uncertain times. Click on the Monthly Key Findings tab to see this month’s highlights. Then, click through the other tabs to see updated data charts. Learn more about our methodology.

Notable Mental Health Index Findings from March 2021

Planning Worsened Across Middle Age Group in March

Between February and March, workers’ planning capacity showed little change overall. However, planning dropped 10% in one month among those in the 40-59 age group. Planning has also decreased 16% in men since the beginning of February. Reduced planning capacity is likely impacting decision making in these worker segments.

Risk of General Anxiety Disorder Is Extremely Elevated in 40-59 Age Group

The risk of General Anxiety Disorder is up 86% compared to February 2020 in workers between the ages of 40-59. The largely increased risk is not present in other age groups. Workers in the 20-39 and 60+ age groups are currently no more at risk of General Anxiety Disorder now compared to before the pandemic.

Workers’ Risk of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Remains Higher Than Before COVID

American workers’ risk of PTSD is 41% higher now than it was at the start of the pandemic. The risk of PTSD increased 51% since the beginning of 2021 for workers in the 40-59 age group. In this same group of workers, the risk of PTSD is 63% higher than at the beginning of the pandemic.

Middle Age Population of Workers Is More Fearful than Before COVID

Fear, a symptom of anxiety, is higher now than it was before the pandemic among workers between the ages of 40-59. Workers in this age group who report feeling scared has jumped up 12% compared to before the pandemic.

Feelings of Panic Have Increased in Middle Age Population of Workers

Workers between the ages of 40-59 are experiencing more feelings of panic now vs. before the pandemic. Panic is a symptom of anxiety that can affect workers’ ability to perform their job.

Examining the Emotional State of Workers

Our emotions greatly influence all other brain capacities, which can also be impaired by mental conditions like depression, anxiety, and ADHD. Watch to learn more.

Emotional Awareness

Emotional awareness helps us build relationships and trust. It impacts how well we read emotional cues in others and informs our behavior in uncertain situations.

Nonconscious Negativity Bias

Nonconscious negativity bias is our natural intuition formed by life experiences. It strongly influences our feelings, motives and decisions. And, it determines how effectively we communicate and collaborate with others. Watch to learn more.

PODCAST – How Emotions and Feelings Drive You

Total Brain’s Founder, Dr. Evian Gordon, is joined by Dr. David Whitehouse for this podcast about the science behind emotions, feelings, and how they impact us all.

Listen Now

PODCAST – How to Deal with Negativity in the COVID Era

Listen as Total Brain’s Dr. Evian Gordon talks with Christopher Darwin and Dr. David Whitehouse about ways to successfully manage negativity during the pandemic.

Listen Now

Tracking Trends in Stress, Anxiety, and Depressive Mood

Feelings are your conscious awareness of, and body’s response to, your unconscious emotions. For example, when you’re feeling stressed or anxious, your body will respond with changes in heart rate, breathing, muscle tension, and sweating. Feelings are triggered by emotions, and emotions are triggered by cues of threat or reward. Watch to learn more.

Stress

Stress is a response to an external “stressor” such as a work deadline, an argument with a loved one, the loss of a job, or a major life change. COVID-19’s impact on health and the economy is a substantial stressor right now. When external stressors are not resolved, stress becomes chronic and leads to anxiety and depression. Watch to learn more.

Anxiety

Anxiety is the internal reaction to stress. It is often accompanied by persistent worrying and fearing something bad will happen. Unlike stress, anxiety persists even after the stressor has been resolved. In severe cases, anxiety can lead to General Anxiety Disorder. Watch to learn more.

Depressive Mood Level

Feeling sadness, frustration, anger, loneliness, or grief often make up what is considered “depressive mood.” These feelings, however, lift after a few days or weeks. When these feelings persist over time, you can become clinically depressed. Watch to learn more.

PODCAST – Modifying Your Reaction to Stress Can Improve Your Mental Health

Listen to Total Brain Founder Dr. Evian Gordon’s podcast “The Role of Stress in Mental Health” with Dr David Whitehouse MD. PhD. Dr. Whitehouse shares how stress damages mental health and how you can reframe your reaction to stress.

Listen Now

PODCAST – Anxiety: It’s Trying to Teach Us Something

Listen to Total Brain Founder Dr. Evian Gordon’s podcast “What Can People with Anxiety Teach Us?” with Dr. Heidi Hanna PhD. They discuss how feeling anxious is a normal part of a healthy life and how to practice stillness.

Listen Now

Assessing Workers’ Cognition

Your cognitive capacity determines how well you learn, remember, pay attention, and solve problems. It impacts how quickly you can complete tasks and how many mistakes you make while doing so. Chronic stress and anxiety can result in cognitive decline over time. Watch to learn more.

Memory

Stress and anxiety can hinder the way we form and retrieve memories. It can make you more forgetful. For example, you may find yourself forgetting where you left your phone, or have a hard time recalling names. Watch to learn more.

Focus: Sustained Attention

Increased levels of stress not only cause us to become more irritable, but also tend to impact our ability to focus. For example, it’s common for stress to cause people to make more mistakes. Watch to learn more.

Planning

Stress can negatively affect your ability to plan and complete tasks on time. When you’re stressed, concentration declines and the amount of time it takes you to complete tasks increases. Watch to learn more.

PODCAST – Learn How Your Brain Works to Improve Your Performance

Listen to Total Brain Founder Dr. Evian Gordon’s podcast “The Brain — From Knowing to Doing,” with Chris Darwin, a great, great grandson of Charles Darwin. They discuss 5 concepts that impact how you process information and your ability to be a peak performer.

Listen Now

PODCAST – Learn to Change Your Behavior by Closing the Gap Between What You Know and What You Do

Chris Darwin joins Dr. Evian Gordon for another podcast, this time to discuss “Can Small Step Habits Change Your Life?” Chris shares three essentials for real behavior change.

Listen Now

Analyzing Workers’ Resilience, Conscious Negativity, and Social Connectivity

Our ability to control our behavior enables us to achieve goals, resist temptation, avoid acting on impulse, and maintain our mental and physical health. When under high levels of stress, people tend to become more negative and less resilient. As a result, they may lose the ability to self-regulate their behavior, which leads to a myriad of problems, including obesity, addiction, poor financial decisions, sexual infidelity, and more. Watch to Learn More

Resilience

Resilience allows us to bounce back when something bad happens. It’s the ability to adapt in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, or other significant sources of stress. Resilience can drop quickly after an emotionally distressing event or a particularly stressful period in life. Watch to learn more.

Conscious Negativity Bias

Conscious negativity bias – the tendency to see the “cup half empty” rather than the “cup half full” – can rise in times of uncertainty and discouragement. It’s a disproportionate focus on problems rather than opportunity. And, it’s highly contagious. That’s why one very negative person can disrupt an entire group or team.

Social Connectivity

Social connectivity reflects the extent to which people proactively seek and gain enjoyment from social interaction. Social connection plays a powerful role in supporting our mental and physical health. Watch to learn more. 

PODCAST – COVID-19 Captivity: Social Connectivity During Pandemic

Listen to Total Brain Founder Dr. Evian Gordon’s podcast “Social Connectivity in the COVID-19 Era,” with Dr. Shelley Carson PhD, a Harvard-trained psychologist. They discuss why social connectivity and social support is important for stress mastery, especially during these uncertain times.

Listen Now

Monitoring Workers’ Risk of Mental Disorders

COVID-19 is causing more Americans to screen at risk for certain mental disorders compared to before the pandemic.

Addiction

When chemicals from drugs or alcohol hit the brain’s reward receptors in bursts, it triggers a response similar to a highly pleasurable event. As the person repeats and increases substance use, the receptors degrade to the point that they cannot respond to un-intoxicated pleasure in the same way as they once did. The brain gets re-mapped to seek pleasure through intoxication rather than healthier activities, and as this new mapping takes hold, addiction is born. Watch to learn more.

Depressive Disorder

Depression is more than a bout with the blues. When feelings of sadness and hopelessness persist and worsen, you may be clinically depressed. Some people are predisposed to depression based on genetics and the brain’s chemical makeup. Chronic stressful life situations can also increase the risk of developing depression if you aren’t coping well. Watch to learn more.

General Anxiety Disorder

Persistent and excessive worry are common indicators of General Anxiety Disorder. People with this condition have an inappropriate triggering of the fight-flight stress system that can make it difficult to control worrying or stop the worry cycle. As a result, they overthink, lose sleep, and agonize more than seems warranted for the situation. Stress is a common trigger for anxiety and if it becomes chronic it can lead to General Anxiety Disorder. Watch to learn more.

Social Anxiety Disorder

People who have Social Anxiety Disorder have intense fear of being judged negatively or rejected in social situations. They often worry about being perceived as stupid, awkward, or boring. It can significantly impact your ability to socialize and communicate with other people. Watch to learn more.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a traumatic event. Most people who experience a distressing event may temporarily have trouble coping. However, they get through it with time and self-care. When symptoms persist for months and years, interfering with daily life, you may have PTSD. Watch to learn more.

Sleep Apnea

Stress and anxiety may cause sleeping problems. Having a clinical condition compounds the problem. Sleep apnea is a condition in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts while sleeping. Watch to learn more.

PODCAST – Genetic Information is a Roadmap that Can Teach Us How to Improve Mental Health

Listen to Total Brain Founder Dr. Evian Gordon’s podcast “How Genetic Brain Information Can Empower You,” with Anu Acharya BSc MSc MS. The podcast touches on how our genes impact our disease disposition, and it explores why understanding our genetics and knowing ourselves better can lead to improved mental health and performance.

Listen Now

PODCAST – Depression Prevalent and Growing in America

Listen to Total Brain Founder Dr. Evian Gordon’s podcast “What Can People with Depression Teach Us?” with Dr. David Whitehouse MD, PhD. Depression is excessively prevalent and growing in our society. They discuss how to maximize the functioning of our brain and minimize the threat of depression.

Listen Now

PODCAST – Addiction During the Pandemic

Listen to Total Brain Founder Dr. Evian Gordon’s podcast “The Hurricane of Addiction,” with Dr. David Whitehouse MD, PhD. They discuss how easy it is to fall under the power of addiction — especially during these uncertain times — while addressing how to restore and reconnect your brain pathways to survive.

Listen Now