How Has COVID-19 Affected Mental Health, Severity of Stress Among Employees?

April 21, 2020
Matthew Gavidia

Nearly 7 in 10 employees indicated in a survey by mental health provider Ginger that the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is the most stressful time of their entire professional career, which has aligned with stark increases in new prescriptions of antidepressant, antianxiety, and anti-insomnia medications.

Nearly 7 in 10 employees indicated in a survey by mental health provider Ginger that the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is the most stressful time of their entire professional career, which has aligned with stark increases in new prescriptions of antidepressant, antianxiety, and anti-insomnia medications.

Published in an article by Human Resource Executive, findings indicate not only the stress-induced impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on employees, but its major implications for employers as well. According to Ginger, 88% of workers reported experiencing moderate to extreme stress over the past 4 to 6 weeks. Among those reporting stress, 62% noted losing at least 1 hour a day in productivity and 32% lost at least 2 hours a day due to COVID-19—related stress.

“As employers wrestle with business continuity planning during COVID-19, this research confirms that employers need to make mental health support a critical aspect of that plan, or risk a dramatic impact on employee health and productivity,” said Sally Welborn, former vice president of global benefit for Walmart Stores.

Stress can have a profound effect on a myriad of populations, from patients with Parkinson disease to those with psoriasis. Its frequent associations with insomnia, depression, and anxiety are now more noticeable than ever, with a survey by Express Scripts detailing how the pandemic has led to a distinct rise in mental health prescriptions that were previously on the decline.

In the survey, titled “America’s State of Mind Report,” researchers highlighted that from February 16 to March 15, prescriptions filled per week for antidepressant, antianxiety, and anti-insomnia medications increased by 21%. The rise in new cases may indicate a troubling association with COVID-19—related stress, as 78% of all 3 prescriptions filled during the peak week ending March 15 were for new prescriptions.

Prior to the pandemic, use of antianxiety and anti-insomnia medications were both on the decline from 2015 to 2019, down 12% and 11.3%, respectively. In the time frame examined in the study, new prescriptions for antianxiety medications exhibited a 37.7% increase, stressing the vital need for therapeutic intervention.

“Whether they are working on the front lines or working at home, employees are urgently in need of accessible, equitable mental health benefits now more than ever,” said Welborn.

The prominence of stress among the workforce could prove costly for employers, especially nonessential businesses, seeking to optimize workflow amid the pandemic. As lost time from work has been indicated in a prior study to potentially cost employers upwards of $23 billion, decreased employee productivity could further amplify these predictions.