According to the February Mental Health Index, the improvement reported in January wasn’t just a fluke. For two months in a row, multiple mental health capacities inched back to levels unseen since before the pandemic. By the end of February, stress, resilience, memory, depressed mood, conscious negativity bias, and risk of Depressive Disorder all returned to where they were in February 2020. While these trends are encouraging, there are some key points to understand about the data. For example, COVID may not be impacting mental health as severely as it was, but there are countless lingering challenges. Mental health suffered in 2020, it remains fragile and workers are vulnerable. Future setbacks are inevitable, particularly as life and work continue to change in 2021. Workers will return to offices, social schedules will get busier, and these changes — even when positive — will cause stress. Finally, a return to pre-pandemic mental health isn’t a return to perfect mental health. American workers faced mental health struggles before COVID, and those issues won’t be solved by a vaccine. For these reasons, continuing to prioritize mental health and provide workers support is essential.
January’s mental health improvements continued throughout February across multiple mental capacities. The mental strain on workers is less severe now vs. at other points during the pandemic.
Complacency is a concern now that mental health capacities are returning to pre-pandemic levels. Now, the danger is that workers may not receive needed support if employers assume mental health challenges have dissipated.
Experiencing 12 straight months of upheaval and trauma makes workers more susceptible to future mental health challenges. Ongoing struggles are expected as workers continue to try to cope and recover from the impact of the pandemic.
Drop in depressed mood since December, now at pre-pandemic level
Reduction in conscious negativity bias since December, back to pre-COVID level for the first time
Drop from last month’s risk of Depressive Disorder, now at pre-pandemic level
Risk of Depressive Disorder fell since January among workers age 40-59
Risk of General Anxiety Disorder up again when compared to same time last year
Workers feel less motivated (a symptom of depressive mood)