The number of young adults who received mental health care increased during the height of the pandemic, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Around 23% of people aged 18-44 received mental health treatment in 2021, up from 18.5% in 2019. This was also the highest percentage for any adult age group this year- the. The results are not surprising, given the state of the world, and highlight the clear (and growing) need for mental health care as we continue to struggle with the effects of recent years.
The results also suggest that young people place more importance on their emotional well-being than previous generations, which is certainly not a bad thing, Billie Katz, Doctor of Psychology, assistant professor of psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, tells SELF. Before the pandemic hit, this age group was the least likely to receive mental health treatment, but has become the most likely to do so in recent years, says Dr. Katz, who has no been directly involved in the report. (“Treatment,” by the way, was defined as taking prescribed mental health medication, undergoing therapy or other counseling, or both.)
According to the report, women aged 18 to 44 were more likely to receive such care than men, almost 29% of women compared to about 18% of men. Dr. Katz notes that the magnitude of this gap is worth looking at: “I was surprised to see that while men seeking mental health treatment increased in 2021, it is still happening at a faster pace. much lower than that of women who engage in caregiving,” she says.
Dr. Katz was also disappointed with the way researchers approached gender in this report. « I was disheartened to see that there was no specific inclusion of individuals who identify as transgender, gay or non-binary, but the data was strictly analyzed between males and females » , she says. « It makes me feel like we’re not looking at the full picture of our country. »
All racial groups included in the report saw an increase in mental health treatment, but it increased the most for non-Hispanic Asians and non-Hispanic whites compared to non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics. However, these numbers alone do not paint the full picture, especially considering the broader impact of racial disparities in health care.
“The lack of access to care for blacks and non-Hispanic Hispanics is a problem,” says Dr. Katz. “There are factors, including a lack of diverse providers and a lifetime of racial bias and trauma that have left black and non-Hispanic Hispanics distrustful of the medical system…It is critically important that we continue to find ways to improve communication, increase transparency and remove barriers to care to better engage patients who have been underserved by the healthcare system in the past.