The State of the Nation’s Mental Health

As we enter the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no doubt that it is continuing to have dramatic effects on people’s lives and not just on those who have contracted the disease. There are less obvious, but just as profound impacts that are coming to light on how pandemic-related stress is affecting our personal well-being.

A recent poll shows 50% of households reported at least one person in the home having serious problems with depression, anxiety, stress or sleep in recent months. A survey by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America found 72% of respondents reported daily stress that interferes with their everyday life with 56% saying anxiety actually affects their job performance.

The National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions’ (National Alliance) latest Mental Health Index reports a 53% increase in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder compared to pre-pandemic levels. And not surprisingly, the report finds a corresponding 53% decrease in sustained attention or focus for workers. Workplaces are bearing significant costs from the pandemic due to absenteeism, lost productively, increased healthcare expenses, and turnover. The average employee experiencing mental health issues uses nearly $3,000 more in health care services per year, but the additional cost of days lost averages nearly $5,000 a year and the cost of turnover averages $6,000 per year, according to one study. You can calculate the cost of mental health and illness for your company with this calculator from the National Safety Council.

What these data show is something we’ve known for a long time. The health of people not only contributes to their personal well-being, but also to the well-being of the workplace. It’s clear this is a critical issue for employers. A recent National Alliance webinar emphasized the importance of moving from knowing about the problem to doing something about it and offered these three steps to help employers support the mental health needs of their staff.

  1. Generate awareness and let employees know this is a vulnerable time.
  2. Provide evidence-based options for stress relief and mental health support.
  3. Help employees find what works for them.

One option for care that has increased dramatically since the beginning of the pandemic is telehealth, what some have called the “silver lining” of COVID-19. A prospective survey by the Business Group on Health reported that nearly all employers planned to offer telehealth services for minor, acute services in 2021, while 91% would offer telemental health, and that could grow to 96% by 2023. In addition, 54% of employers reported that they were planning to lower or completely waive cost-sharing for virtual mental health services.

If you have found ways to improve the quality and delivery of mental health services to your employees, plan members, or patients, I hope you will share them with us so that we can amplify your success and put the value of Alliance collaboration to work. Please take a moment to send them to Medical Director of Performance Measurement and Practice Transformation Sharon Eloranta.

All the best,


Published: November 1, 2021

About Washington Health Alliance

The Washington Health Alliance is a place where stakeholders work collaboratively to transform Washington state’s health care system for the better. The Alliance brings together organizations that share a commitment to drive change in our health care system by offering a forum for critical conversation and aligned efforts by stakeholders: purchasers, providers, health plans, consumers and other health care partners. The Alliance believes strongly in transparency and offers trusted and credible reporting of progress on measures of health care quality and value. The Alliance is a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) nonprofit with more than 185 member organizations. A cornerstone of the Alliance's work is the Community Checkup, a report to the public comparing the performance of medical groups, hospitals and health plans and offering a community-level view on important measures of health care quality (www.wacommunitycheckup.org).

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