By Megan Briggs -December 11, 2020
Americans rated their mental health lower this year than they ever have in the past two decades, according to a survey by Gallup. The percentage of people who rated their mental health as “excellent” or “good” shrunk by nine points this year, compared to last year. But there is one group of people who have actually managed to increase their “excellent” and “good” ratings in a year that has brought stress, anxiety, and worry to many. According to the survey, weekly churchgoers are still faring well.
“The latest weakening in positive ratings, from a Nov. 5-19 poll, are undoubtedly influenced by the coronavirus pandemic, which continues to profoundly disrupt people’s lives, but may also reflect views of the election and the state of race relations, both of which were on Americans’ minds this year,” a report on Gallup’s survey states.
Just over 1,000 adults were surveyed via telephone for this year’s annual November Health and Healthcare survey, which Gallup has conducted every year since 2001.
This year, the percentage of Americans that rated their mental health positively (they responded with either “excellent” or “good” when asked “How would you describe your own mental health or emotional wellbeing at this time?”) was 76 percent. This is down from 85 percent in 2019. The second lowest rating that has been reported occurred in 2002, when 81 percent of Americans rated their mental health positively.
While the numbers indicate that more Americans overall are struggling with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, when the data are broken down by demographics, a couple of groups emerge as seemingly more resilient to the year’s harsh circumstances, at least mentally. Those groups are churchgoers who attend services at least once a week and Democrats. The big winner was weekly churchgoers, however. For this group, 46 percent reported “excellent” mental health this year compared to 42 percent last year. Comparatively, Democrats didn’t see an increase in their “excellent” numbers, rather the smallest decrease out of any of the other demographic groups surveyed (29 percent of this group reports “excellent” mental health this year compared to 30 percent last year).
The biggest decreases in “excellent” mental health ratings occurred among the following groups:
Republicans (15 percent decrease)
People who attend church seldom/never (13 percent decrease)
People who attend church nearly weekly/monthly (12 percent decrease)
People who make more than $40,000 a year (12 percent decrease)
People who make more than $100,000 a year (12 percent decrease)
Other notable decreases occurred among women (10 percent decrease), singles (10 percent decrease), Independents (11 percent decrease), whites (10 percent decrease), and those aged over 65 (10 percent decrease).
Weekly churchgoers were the only group to actually increase their numbers of “excellent” ratings. It’s unclear whether those attending services weekly did so in person or online, but a couple appear safe to draw from the survey results: Church services act as a boon to a person’s mental health and church communities are essential for helping people through adverse times.