Americans’ mental health is at a new low; More Get help

Highlights of the story

  • 31% describe their mental health as “excellent”, the lowest at three points
  • 23% saw a mental health professional in 2022 compared to 13% in 2004.
  • 26% say physical health is excellent, a record low of one point

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Americans’ positive self-reported mental health is the lowest in more than two decades of Gallup polling. A total of 31% of US adults describe their mental health or emotional well-being as “excellent,” the worst rating by three percentage points.

Another 44% of Americans rate their mental health as “good,” and the 75% combined rating of excellent and good is the lowest on record and 10 points below the average since 2001. Additionally, 17% of US adults describe their mental health as “only fair” and 7% as “poor.” The latter figure is the highest in Gallup’s trend.

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Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans’ “excellent” mental health ratings averaged 45%. A Gallup poll at the start of the pandemic found that US adults are concerned about their own mental health and that of their children. By November 2020, eight months after the pandemic began in the US, Americans’ excellent ratings of their own mental health had dropped nine points to 34%, a new low since the measure was first tracked in 2001.

Last year’s readings were unchanged. The latest three-point drop in excellent mental health scores from Nov. 9 to Dec. 2 A Gallup poll suggests that although the pandemic has improved, some of its ill effects remain. These include economic concerns sparked by the highest rate of inflation in more than four decades.

Women, young adults in the US, and those with lower annual household incomes were the least likely to rate their mental health positively.

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Adults ages 18-34 and those with household incomes under $100,000 are less likely now than last year to say their mental health is excellent.

Mental health visits have increased since 2004

Data from the same survey showed that nearly a quarter of US adults, 23%, reported seeing a psychologist, therapist, psychiatrist or other mental health professional in the past 12 months. This marks a significant increase in mental health visits since the question was last asked in 2004, when 13% of US adults said they had seen a mental health professional. At the time, a record 51 percent of Americans rated their mental health as excellent—20 points more than today. In 2001, the only other year Gallup asked about mental health visits, 10 percent reported seeing a professional and 43 percent described their mental health as excellent.

US adults had an average of 3.2 mental health visits in 2022, compared to 1.5 in 2004 and 1.1 in 2001. Thirteen percent of Americans visited a mental health professional five or more times in 2022, compared to 6% in 2004 and 5% in 2001.

Given the length of time between measurements, the reason for this increase in mental health visits is unclear, but likely resulted from a number of factors. It may be related in part to the pandemic; to a growing appreciation of the importance of good mental health; to reduce the stigma around seeking treatment – especially among young people compared to older people; changes in the ways health insurance plans cover mental health treatment; or to other factors.

US adults who rate their own mental health negatively are more likely to report having seen a mental health professional than those who rate their mental health positively. Four in five of the 24 percent of U.S. adults who say their mental health is only fair or poor say they have sought psychiatric care, while only one in five of the 75 percent who rate their mental health as excellent or fair good, has sought help.

U.S. adults who rate their mental health as fair or poor say they visited a mental health professional an average of 8.1 times in 2022. That compares with an average of 1.6 visits in the past year among those who rated their mental health your health as excellent or good.

Younger adults and women, who were more likely than their male counterparts to rate their own mental health negatively, were also more likely to say they had sought mental health care in the past year.

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US adults aged 18-34 reported an average of 5.9 mental health visits in the past year, compared with 3.7 visits among those aged 35-54 and 1.0 among those 55 and older. Women reported an average of 3.7 visits in 2022 compared to 2.1 for men.

Physical health ratings are less affected by the pandemic

Americans have always rated their physical health less positively than their mental health. Although the latest “excellent” physical health score for US adults of 26% is the lowest on record by one point, this score is less variable over time and has not been significantly affected by the pandemic. An additional 47% of Americans say their physical health is “good,” while 21% describe it as “fairly good” and 5% as “poor.”

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Young adults’ ratings of their physical health remain significantly more positive than their older counterparts, in stark contrast to their ratings of mental health. Higher-income Americans remain the most likely to say their physical health is excellent, with positive ratings declining as income levels decrease.

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Ninety percent of Americans now report seeing a doctor at least once in the past 12 months, with an average of 5.6 visits in 2022. In 2004, the last time Gallup asked the question, 91% had seen a doctor and the average number of visits is 6.3. Ratings of physical health were better in 2004 than now, with 32% describing their physical health as excellent and 48% as good.

U.S. adults who said their physical health was excellent or good had an average of 4.1 doctor visits in 2022. Meanwhile, those who characterized their health as only fair or poor had an average of 9.8 visits. Older people say they visited their doctors more than younger people. Those aged 18-34 had an average of 4.6 visits, while those in the 35-54 and 55 and over categories visited their doctors an average of 6 times in the past year.

Bottom row

While a majority of Americans continue to rate their mental and physical health as excellent or good, the percentages who say everyone is excellent are at an all-time low. Mental health scores remain lower than their pre-pandemic levels, while physical health scores are less affected by the pandemic. At a time when Americans’ self-reported mental health is at its worst in more than two decades, more U.S. adults — especially those who are younger — are seeking help.

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