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APA Study Finds Mental Health Diagnoses and Psychologist Workload Surge Within Year



APA Study Finds Mental Health Diagnoses and Psychologist Workload Surge Within Year

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Upon the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, psychologists are having a hard time keeping up with the growing demand of mental health services, according to a recent study from the American Psychological Association

The American Psychological Association (APA)’s 2022 COVID-19 Practitioner Impact Survey revealed a rising demand for mental health services, most notably among youth, health care workers, and “populations of color.” In tandem with this finding, the APA also noted an increase in trauma- and stress-related disorders and substance use disorders and high requests for anxiety and depression treatment.  

In comparison to 2021, the percentage for treatment of several disorders since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic slightly decreased —  anxiety disorders, depression disorders, sleep-wake disorders & feeding and eating disorders. Other treatment areas including trauma- and stressor-related disorders, obsessive-compulsive and related disorders, substance-related and addictive disorders, cognitive disorders, and persistent and severe mental illness increased from 2021 to 2022. Between 2020 to 2022, trauma- and stressor-related disorders (51% to 64%), obsessive-compulsive and related disorders (31% to 43%), and substance-related and addictive disorders (29% to 47%) show the sharpest increases.  

The largest demographic of patients are adolescents (ages of 13-17) at 46 percent. The second highest group demographic are adults (ages 18-25) at 40 percent, followed by children under 13 (38 percent) and adults ages 26-49 (36 percent). The lowest ranking groups tied at 34 percent are adults ages 50-64 and older adults from the ages of 65 and older. While White/European Americans make up the largest patient demographic compared to 12 months prior at 29 percent, one in five psychologists also found the largest increase among Black or African American patients among populations of color at 21 percent. A reported 20 percent increase was also uncovered among patients of Latino/a/x or Spanish origin and biracial/multiracial ethnic backgrounds. 

As percentages of certain mental health disorders from year to year have expanded, so have increased workload and burnout among psychologists. A seven percent jump from 2020 to 2022 of psychologists “working more than they did 12 months ago,” was recorded along with a 28 percent jump from 2020 to 2022 of psychologists surveyed who said they were “seeing more patients [in 2022] than they did before the pandemic.” Aside from the challenging workload, 72 percent of the study’s included psychologists disclosed having longer waitlists in 2022, 45 percent of them felt burned out from their workload, and 46 percent admitted to being unable to keep up with the treatment demands from patients. Even so, the average stress level of psychologists who took part in the study reported less stress levels in comparison to previous years — the average stress level of the mental health experts recorded in the APA COVID-19 Practitioner Impact Survey of 2022 was 4.94. In 2021, it was higher at 5.99 and in 2020 it was documented at a decrease of 5.89.  

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With more people seeking mental health treatment, psychologists have leaned into the hybrid work model. When it comes to psychologists seeing patients remotely, the APA survey showed a dramatic drop from 47 percent in 2021 to 31 percent in 2022. Even though in-person sessions between patients and psychologists increased from four percent in 2021 to 11 percent in 2022, 96 percent of psychologists intend on providing the use of telehealth as an option for patients after the COVID-19 pandemic. While the current mental health crisis depends on an unwavering pursuit to find achievable ways to tackle it efficiently, telehealth appears to be a warranted silver lining to pay attention to ahead of 2023.

Photo by Nik Shuliahin 💛💙 on Unsplash

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