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An ever-growing group of US citizens are in extreme distress, new research shows

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An ever-growing group of US citizens are in extreme distress, new research shows

New research by Andrew Oswald (University of Warwick and CAGE) and David Blanchflower (Dartmouth College) finds that the proportion of the US population in extreme distress rose from 3.6% in 1993 to 6.4% in 2019.

The paper, which is forthcoming in the American Journal of Public Health, investigates changes in the percentage of US citizens suffering extreme distress from 1993 to 2019. Using data on 8.1 million randomly sampled US citizens, the authors create a new proxy measure for exceptional distress (the percentage who reported major mental and emotional problems in all 30 of the last 30 days). They examine time trends for different groups and predictors of distress.

Regression analysis reveals that at the personal level, the strongest statistical predictor of extreme distress was ‘I am unable to work’. At the state level, a decline in the share of manufacturing jobs is a predictor of greater distress.

Blanchflower and Oswald conclude that increasing numbers of US citizens are reporting extreme levels of mental distress and that this is linked to poor labour-market prospects. Inequality of distress has also widened. Policymakers need to recognise the public health implications of this growing crisis.

Read the research

Blanchflower, D., and Oswald, A., (2020), 'Trends in Extreme Distress in the United States 1992-2009', American Journal of Public Health