Mental Health Index

U.S. Worker Edition – June 2021 Update

Elevated Risk of PTSD Linked to Struggles in Most Capacities Measured by the Mental Health Index

Mental Health Improvements Overshadowed by Broadening Concerns About Workers’ Elevated Risk of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

The Mental Health Index recorded some positive findings in June, including notable improvements across women in the 20-39 age group. This cohort reported decreased anxiety (44%), depressed mood (43%), stress (25%) and negativity (20%) from May to June. However, analysis of June’s data also revealed concerning trends surrounding workers’ risk of PTSD — which remained elevated again last month. Workers who screened at risk for PTSD showed significantly worse memory, focus, resilience, and planning than those without a PTSD risk. Workers at risk of PTSD also had higher stress levels. All of these findings are concerning for employers. Pandemic induced PTSD is creating widespread deficits in cognition and resilience that are likely to impact employees’ performance in the workplace.

Best Case

When looking at workers’ risks of mental disorders, PTSD is currently an outlier. Unlike PTSD, risk of other mental disorders has not been consistently above pre-pandemic levels in recent months.

Worst Case

Workers who are at risk of PTSD are facing multiple other mental health challenges.

Every Case

Due to the high number of workers screening at risk for PTSD (17%), employers need to understand that more of their employees may be struggling and in need of additional support. Because of this, now is an ideal time to encourage and promote empathy in the workplace.

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

Risk of PTSD a Continued Threat Despite Several Mental Health Capacities Improving or Holding Steady

Risk of Several Mental Disorders Has Improved, PTSD Is the Exception


Less risk of Depressive Disorder among U.S. workers since April 2021


Greater risk of PTSD in June 2021 vs. pre-pandemic

Workers At Risk of PTSD Are Struggling More Across Other Capacities


Higher stress among workers who screen at risk of PTSD


Lower ability to focus measured in workers who flag at risk for PTSD

Mental Strain Lessened Across Youngest Cohort of Working Women


Reduction in depressed mood during the past month among women aged 20-39


Decrease in stress in June among women in the 20-39 age group

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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.

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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 June 2021

Large Number of Workers Continue to Experience Trauma Caused by the Pandemic

June marked another month of elevated risk of PTSD. Working Americans’ risk of PTSD is now 56% higher than before the pandemic. The timing of the increase, along with the absence of a corresponding increase across other mental disorders, clearly suggests this is a pandemic-related PTSD and not a more general mental health risk. Analysis of workers who recently screened at risk confirms that increased stress and worsened resilience and cognition are common characteristics of this COVID-driven PTSD.

Risk of Social Anxiety Disorder Climbs Among U.S. Workers Ages 40-59

Risk of Social Anxiety Disorder is spiking in workers in the 40-59 age group. Across this group, the risk of Social Anxiety Disorder is 108% higher than before the pandemic. With PTSD (another anxiety disorder) so high, it will be important to watch whether the increased risk of Social Anxiety Disorder continues next month or spreads to other age groups. If so, it could signal deeper underlying anxiety issues.

Workers At Risk of PTSD Have Higher Stress Levels

A comparison of 2,655 workers who flagged at risk for PTSD and 2,655 who did not flag at risk revealed that those who screened positive have a 57% higher stress level.

Resilience Is Lower in Workers Who Screen At Risk for PTSD

Workers who screen at risk of PTSD have 11% worse resilience than workers who are not at risk.

Sustained Attention Is Worse Among Workers Who Are At Risk of PTSD

Workers who screen at risk for PTSD have more difficulty focusing. When compared to workers who are not at risk for PTSD, those identified as being at risk have 18% worse sustained attention.

Planning Ability Is Reduced Among Workers Who Screen At Risk of PTSD

Planning is more challenging for workers with a known risk of PTSD. Working Americans who screen at risk of PTSD measure 8% worse in planning capacity.

Females Ages 20-39 Drove Improvements Across Several Mental Capacities in June

The youngest group of working women recorded a considerable improvement in mental health between May and June. Anxiety (44%), depressed mood (43%), stress (25%) and conscious negativity (20%) all improved among this cohort. As a result, measures for stress (11%), anxiety (19%), and depressed mood (18%) improved overall across U.S. workers last month.

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 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 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.


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.


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.

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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 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.


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.

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