Stress, Anxiety, Depressive Mood Persist

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. Right now, three major stressors are affecting us all: COVID-19’s impact on health, its negative impact on the economy, and uncertainty about when public health directives can be safely lifted. When external stressors are not resolved, stress becomes chronic and leads to anxiety and depression.

Americans Remain 14% More Stressed

Stress continues to remain elevated with working Americans 14% more stressed than they were during the first week of February. While higher than normal, stress decreased somewhat since May when it was up 28%.

Women No Longer More Stressed Than Men

The overall drop in stress from May to June was driven by women. Previously, stress had been rising more sharply among women than men. From May to June, stress decreased 11% in women — bringing men and women to an equally elevated level in comparison to February.

Chronic Stress Decreasing Progressively by Age

From May to June, stress decreased most among those 60 or older. The next biggest decrease in stress was seen in the 40-59 age group, while stress levels dropped least in those aged 20-39. Despite the recent decline, all but those 60+ have more stress now than in February.


Anxiety is your 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 an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety Levels Up 27%

Anxiety levels among working Americans have increased 27% since February, peaking at a 54% increase in early April 2020. Overall, anxiety decreased 11% from May to June.

Anxiety Hitting Working Women Harder than Working Men

Anxiety has jumped in women 26%. Meanwhile for men, anxiety has dropped slightly and is now at about pre-COVID levels.

Older Workers Adapting to Stressors Better

Anxiety has not increased for Americans 60 and older, but it is up 34% among those aged 40-59, and up 25% among the 20-39 age group.

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.

Gloominess Subsiding Slightly, Still Elevated

Overall, feelings of depressive mood are 31% higher than in February. However, American workers may be rebounding — there was a 13% improvement from May to June.

Weariness Lifting Somewhat for Women

Feelings of depressive mood had previously spiked for working women. However, women may be adapting to stressors — their feelings of depressive mood improved by 20% from May to June.

Despair Not Lessening for Younger Working Americans

While depressive mood remains elevated, both the 40-59 and 60+ age groups had fewer feelings of depressive mood over the past month. However, there was no improvement for the 20-39 age group.

Rising Stress and Depressed Mood Reversing Among Women and Older Working Adults, Still Increasing in Younger Workers

At the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in mid-April, the Mental Health Index measured an overall 38 percent increase in feelings of stress and a 54 percent increase in anxiety. Both levels have been falling recently, with stress among women seeing a significant drop. However, despite these declines, stress and anxiety remained substantially elevated at the end of June compared to the baseline. Overall, stress is up 14 percent and anxiety is up 27 percent.

Feelings of depressive mood increased 31 percent between February and June. This percentage dropped over the past month thanks to a 20 percent decrease in depressive mood among women between May and June.

While workers in the 60+ age group are experiencing stress, anxiety, and depressive mood at levels on par with February, the youngest working adults have not fared as well. Among those aged 20–39, stress increased 13 percent, anxiety increased 25 percent, and depressed mood increased 30 percent since February.

Not surprisingly many of those factors directly impact employee performance, as documented over decades of research on stress and anxiety in the workplace.

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