Virginians Face Mental Health Struggles But Also See Improvements in Personal Relationships Amid Pandemic
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
A new VCU Wilder School poll shows that nearly half of Virginians reported experiencing
a mental health downturn due to COVID-19; but nearly half also reported their personal relationships with family and friends have improved.
RICHMOND, Va. (Aug. 12) — Forty-two percent of adults in Virginia say the pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health, according to the new statewide vaccine poll conducted for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management by the Research Institute for Social Equity at the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Nine percent of those polled say the pandemic had a major negative mental health impact. Asians (44%) were most likely to report feelings of worry or stress due to the pandemic, followed by whites (43%) and African Americans (41%). At 30%, Hispanics were the least likely to report feelings of stress or worry. The poll, conducted between July 6 and July 19, involved a representative sample of 842 adults in Virginia and has a margin of error of 4.62%.
“The poll shows that the ongoing need for mental health care is exacerbated by the pandemic. The increases in patient care demonstrate the need for adequate services because agencies still are not fully comporting to meeting demands,” said former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder. “There is a growing racial divide in health care that disproportionately affects people of color at every level of services.”
By political party, over half of Democrats said the pandemic had a negative impact on their mental health (56%), compared to 34% of Republicans and 27% of Independents. Among those who are not likely to get vaccinated, 29% report that worry or stress related to COVID-19 has had a negative effect on their mental health. In addition, those in the western region of the commonwealth were more likely to report negative impacts (52%) than other regions throughout the state (as low as 32% in Tidewater and 35% in the northwest).
When asked about the pandemic’s impact on their behaviors, white respondents with negative mental health effects were more than twice as likely to report increased use of tobacco, alcohol and other substances (21%) than African Americans respondents (8%). However, African Americans were more likely to report difficulty concentrating and making decisions than whites (46% versus 30%).
While many adults polled reported negative mental health impacts, the pandemic led to important positive experiences as well. Forty-four percent said that they saw improvements in their personal relationships with family and friends. In addition, 43% saw improvements in how they spend their free time, and 40% said that they had an improved view of the government’s response to safety precautions during a pandemic.
Financial impacts of the pandemic
While the majority of participants said they did not fall behind in paying their rent or mortgage, did not have problems paying for food, and did not have problems affording health insurance, 17% stated that they had a household member lose a job, be placed on furlough, or have work pay or hours reduced due to COVID-19. Of those who did report struggles, African American respondents were nearly three times more likely than white respondents to have fallen behind in rent or mortgage payments (11% versus 4%) and were more than twice as likely to have fallen behind on credit cards and other bills (18% versus 9%).
In addition, households with incomes under $50,000 were most likely to have fallen behind in rent or mortgage (13%), have trouble paying for food (15%), have fallen behind on credit card or other bills (22%), have trouble affording health insurance (12%), and have trouble paying medical bills (15%) as a result of COVID-19.
For the full poll results and analysis, visit https://oppo.vcu.edu/policy-poll/.
ABOUT THE L. DOUGLAS WILDER SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS
Ranked in the top 15 percent nationally among schools of public affairs, the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University advances excellence in governance and promotes evidence-based public policy in Virginia and beyond. The Wilder School offers an array of graduate and undergraduate programs in virtually every policy area including criminal justice, homeland security and emergency preparedness, public administration, public policy and administration, and urban and regional studies and planning. Additionally, the Wilder School is home to a robust Center for Public Policy that provides applied research in the areas of state and local government, social equity, and leadership and a range of services to clients in state and local government, nonprofit organizations, businesses and the general public. Learn more at wilder.vcu.edu.
ABOUT THE VCU WILDER SCHOOL COMMONWEALTH POLL
For nearly three decades, the VCU Wilder School Commonwealth Poll has been an important bellwether for policymakers in Virginia and beyond on a range of topics, including voting intentions, economic and workforce development, education, housing, public health, public safety and racial equity. The Commonwealth Poll is a featured 2020 Presidential Election Poll by CNN, approved based on a rigorous review of methodologies and assumptions that ensure that CNN-cited polling entities are employing the gold standard in public opinion research.