The Psychological Toll of Collective Trauma and Post-Pandemic Stress on Americans: A Deeper Look


Collective Trauma

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States is grappling with the psychological aftermath of a collective trauma, according to a new survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA).

Despite the appearance of a return to normalcy, psychologists warn that the post-traumatic effects on mental and physical health are more substantial than meets the eye.

The long-term stress endured since the pandemic’s onset has taken a significant toll on well-being, with a notable increase in reported mental health conditions and chronic illnesses.

Survey To Understand The Collective Trauma And Stress

These findings come from the “Stress in America™ 2023” survey, which polled over 3,000 U.S. adults aged 18 and older, conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of the APA.

The survey’s results reveal that individuals aged 35 to 44 experienced the most significant rise in chronic health conditions post-pandemic, with 58% reporting such conditions in 2023 compared to 48% in 2019.

This same age group also saw the highest increase in mental health diagnoses, with 45% reporting a mental illness in 2023, up from 31% in 2019. Adults aged 18 to 34 still had the highest rate of mental illnesses, with 50% reporting such conditions in 2023. Adults aged 35 to 44 were also more likely to attribute significant stress to money (77% vs. 65%) and the economy (74% vs. 51%) in 2023 compared to 2019.

“The COVID-19 pandemic created a collective experience among Americans. While the early pandemic lockdowns may seem like the distant past, the aftermath remains,” stated Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, APA’s chief executive officer.

“We cannot ignore the fact that we have been significantly changed by the loss of more than one million Americans, as well as the shift in our workplaces, school systems, and culture at large. To move toward post-traumatic growth, we must first identify and understand the psychological wounds that remain.”

Interestingly, many respondents maintained positive perceptions of their physical health despite being diagnosed with chronic conditions. Over 81% of adults rated their physical health as good, very good, or excellent. However, 66% of adults acknowledged having been informed by a healthcare provider about a chronic illness.

Similarly, 81% of respondents reported good, very good, or excellent mental health, yet more than a third (37%) stated they had a diagnosed mental health condition. This is a 5 percentage point increase from pre-pandemic levels in 2019 (32%).

The majority of adults downplayed their stress, with 67% believing that their problems aren’t “bad enough” to warrant stress compared to others who may have it worse. When asked why they don’t seek treatment, the top reasons included a belief that therapy doesn’t work (40%), a lack of time (39%), or insufficient insurance coverage (37%).

Nevertheless, 47% expressed a desire for someone to help them manage their stress, while 62% admitted to not discussing their stress with others to avoid burdening them.

The survey found that nearly a quarter of adults (24%) rated their average stress level between eight and 10 on a scale of one to 10, where one signifies little to no stress, and 10 indicates a significant amount of stress.

This is an increase from 19% in 2019, before the pandemic. The rise in stress was consistent across all age groups except those aged 65 and older. Among individuals aged 18 to 34, 34% reported high stress in 2023, up 8 percentage points from 2019. For those aged 35 to 44, it was 31% (+10 percentage points), for those aged 45 to 64, it was 22% (+4 percentage points), and for those aged 65 and older, it decreased slightly to 9% (-1 percentage point).

Parents of children under 18 saw a substantial increase in high stress levels, with 33% reporting this in 2023, compared to 24% in 2019.

In 2023, parents were more likely than other adults to report increased financial strain in their households (46% vs. 34%), frequent arguments about money (58% vs. 30%), and feeling overwhelmed by worries about finances (66% vs. 39%).

Alarmingly, parents of children under 18 were also more likely than other adults to report feeling completely overwhelmed by stress most days (48% vs. 26%), feeling so stressed that they become numb (42% vs. 22%), or feeling so stressed that they can’t function most days (41% vs. 20%).

“Stress affects all systems of the body, so Americans must understand the serious impacts of stress and take steps to reduce the effect of stressors in their lives. Seeking help from healthcare providers, the workplace, and support systems can prevent further health crises,” noted Evans.

— Share —

Up Next

Dr. Jessi Gold Named Inaugural Chief Wellness Officer for University of Tennessee System

Dr. Jessi Gold

A mind-blowing move has been taken, that will redefine the mental health support within higher education.

Dr. Jessi Gold has been appointed as the inaugural chief wellness officer at the University of Tennessee (UT) System and is set to change the game in mental health support.

Dr. Gold is already known for her advocacy around healthcare worker mental health, burnout, and raising awareness about mental health issues from her immense expertise in this area.

The appointment o

Up Next

Queer Mental Health: The Crucial Call for Transformative Change in Indian Educational Institutions

Queer Mental Health

In the midst of a revolutionary change calling for inclusivity, there is a growing focus on Indian educational institutions having to critically evaluate and consider the queer mental health problems faced by the youths.

These institutions are increasingly expected to become central sources of support and understanding especially in respect to an oppressed minority fighting against societal shame and rejection.

The queer mental health of young Indians has been severely affected due to long-standing discrimination against their community.

Up Next

England Rugby Captain Owen Farrell to Take Break from International Duty, Leaving Leadership Vacuum Ahead of Six Nations

Owen Farrell Takes Break

Owen Farrell, as the captain of England Rugby is renowned for taking a step to prioritize his mental health and that of his family by opting to step down from international rugby.

The length of time he will be away is not known; however, this move has created a leadership void in the England team.

Nevertheless, during this period when he will not be playing for England, Farrell remains committed to leading his club side, Saracens.

Owen Farrell’s Decision and Its Impact

Up Next

Carnegie Hall Unveils Groundbreaking Well-Being Concert Series to Address Mental Health Through Music

Carnegie Hall's Well-Being Concerts

The Carnegie Hall is embarking on a groundbreaking series of therapies aimed at improving mental health through a revolutionary series of Well-Being Concerts.

Unlike the typical concert atmosphere, these events aim to entertain people while providing them with health benefits.

This program was created by Sarah Johnson, who heads the Weill Music Institute (WMI) at Carnegie Hall.

Up Next

Mental Health Patients Languishing in Hospitals Due to Shortage in Community Care

Patients Trapped in Hospitals are in Mental Health Crisis

Unusual Long-term Stays

A new study by The Independent has brought to light an alarming situation of mental health crisis in mental health care: last year alone, a shocking 3213 patients remained confined in hospital units for over three months, up by 639 from the previous year.

Of this number, shockingly there were 325 children being held in adult units. What is especially disturbing is that quite a few of these people who were cleared for discharge ended up abandoned due to la

Up Next

Stevenage Chef Wins Bright Future Award for Mental Health Service Excellence

Stevenage Chef Service Excellence

Mitchell Gets Bright Future Award for Dedication

One of the highlights of the elaborate celebrations in honor of commitment and unique contributions was Steve Mitchell who is a genius Stevenage Chef.

This is after he scooped the distinguished Bright Future Award during Cygnet Group’s recognition awards ceremony.

At Cygnet Hospital in Stevenage, Mitchell is regarded as a Head Chef, having firmly established himself by providing a comprehensive menu for mental health patients with

Up Next

Katie Travis: Turning Personal Loss into a Beacon of Support for Others

Transforming Personal Loss into Empowerment

Early Years and Passion to Help Military Families

Katie Travis, the current Senior Peer Mentor Coordinator at TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors), has spent her life supporting those who suffer the deep personal loss of a loved one.

The father of Travis provided military services. It was through her father’s military service that Travis grew up around the military.

Therefore, she had a connection with military families from an early age. She had seen the life of the