Mental Health Index

U.S. Worker Edition – April 2021 Update

Mental Strain Spiking Again in Working Women and 40-59 Age Group

After a Period of Improvement, Several Mental Health Capacities Worsening Again

After showing signs of improvement in early 2021, anxiety and depressed mood were more prevalent in U.S. workers in April than before the pandemic. Additionally, stress increased 13% from March to April. Women and workers in the 40-59 age group experienced the greatest decline in these mental capacities. From March to April, stress, anxiety, depressed mood, and nonconscious negativity all worsened in working women. Workers in the 40-59 age group were also impacted. Among this middle age group, anxiety spiked 40% in the past two months. Some workers’ anxiety may stem from their feelings about returning to an office after working remotely during the pandemic. This aligns with a recent Total Brain survey of 425 Americans who were temporarily working remotely that found two-thirds are “somewhat” or “extremely” anxious about returning to work in-person.

Best Case

The increased mental strain Americans are experiencing — measured by the Mental Health Index — may drive more open discussions about mental health issues. Additionally, a new Total Brain survey found 88% of surveyed working Americans want a corporate culture that embraces open mental health dialogue.

Worst Case

Worsening stress, anxiety, depressed mood, PTSD, sustained attention, and sleep apnea were identified across the overall population of U.S. workers or specific subsets in April.

Every Case

If the mental health challenges measured in April continue over the next few months, employers and employees need to be prepared for the risk of mental disorders to rise.

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

Increases in Anxiety, Depressed Mood, Stress and Risk of PTSD Worsen in April

Risk of PTSD Rises as Some Mental Capacities Are Again Worsening

29%

Increase in worker’s risk of PTSD since start of February 2021

15%

Both anxiety and depressed mood are currently 15% above pre-pandemic levels

Women’s Mental Health Worsening Across Multiple Capacities

33%

Increase in anxiety among women from March to April

25%

Rise in women’s stress in the past month

Workers in 40-59 Age Group Struggling with Anxiety

40%

Jump in anxiety over the past two months among workers in middle age group

47%

Anxiety is up vs. pre-pandemic level for workers between 40-59

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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.

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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 April 2021

Workers Experienced a Bump in Stress in April

Stress increased 13% since March. As a result, workers’ stress is inching closer to a point where it may once again surpass the pre-pandemic level. The increase over the past month was driven largely by a rise in working women’s stress, which increased 25% between March and April.

Anxiety Increased 33% in Women Last Month

Along with rising stress, working women also experienced increased anxiety in April. After rising 33% during the past month, anxiety is now trending 21% above the pre-pandemic level in working women.

Anxiety Is Rising Among Workers in the 40-59 Age Group

Another group hit harder by anxiety in April was the population of working adults between the ages of 40-59. After rising 40% during the past two months, anxiety is now 47% higher than before the pandemic in workers in the 40-59 age group.

Cognition Decreased Measurably in Youngest Workers

Sustained attention is 65% worse, and planning is 27% lower now vs. before the pandemic among workers in the 20-39 age bracket. The impact is most apparent in young men. Sustained attention dropped 61% over the past three months among working men between the ages of 20-39. As of April, sustained attention measured 167% below the pre-pandemic level for the U.S. workforce’s youngest male workers.

Workers’ Risk of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Is Growing

The risk of PTSD has been trending upward since the beginning of February 2021, increasing 29% since then. As of April, workers’ risk of PTSD was 46% greater than before the pandemic started. Signs of PTSD are known to appear months after triggering events, suggesting that rising PTSD now may be related to pandemic-induced stress and trauma.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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