Comparative well-being analysis reveals 230% increase in anxiety across U.S. due to COVID-19

Survey also reveals more than 50% of Americans exhibiting healthier behaviors during pandemic

ATLANTA – May 5, 2020 – Sharecare, the digital health company helping people manage all their health in one place, today announced initial results and insights from more than 115,000 responses it received in April[1] for “Flatten the Curve” – the national survey it developed in partnership Dr. Sandro Galea, dean of the Boston University School of Public Health, and Publicis Health Media to better understand community well-being and behavior change during the COVID-19 pandemic. While 98% of Flatten the Curve respondents indicate they did their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 and 36% are experiencing more feelings of gratitude, the data points to a significant increase in worry across the United States – estimated as more than 230% – due to the pandemic.[2]

“When Boston University and Sharecare launched the Community Well-Being Index last year, we articulated a vision to create a unique, practical application of population health science principles that transforms health locally as well as globally,” said Dr. Galea. “With that in mind, our initial analysis of responses to Flatten the Curve confirms many of our fears – in particular, that our stress and mental well-being is being challenged in a myriad of ways – but also bears some glimmers of hope in terms of many people’s chosen health behaviors. In the weeks and months ahead, we must not only continue to do our respective parts to mitigate the spread of the virus, but also urge organizations to seek innovative solutions to proactively support their populations and the communities they serve to make the healthier choice the easier choice throughout this pandemic and beyond.”

In the weeks since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), communities around the country have been affected by shelter-in-place orders, extended business closures and increased demands on healthcare systems. According to Flatten the Curve, 9 in 10 Americans are impacted by feelings of worry about the novel coronavirus and 1 in 5 report severe levels of stress and anxiety. Further, relative to the economic impact that COVID-19 is having on the country, survey results suggest that Americans are experiencing a significant amount of financial worry, with 65% of national respondents indicating worry about their retirement funds and 22% noting they are “very worried” that the U.S. will enter an extended recession. When examining state-level financial worry as a result of COVID-19, Flatten the Curve finds that:

  • Respondents in Hawaii are most likely to be worried about their retirement funds (72.5%), followed by Wyoming (72.3%), North Dakota (70.4%), Rhode Island (70.35%), and Oregon (70.1%).
  • Respondents in Mississippi are least likely to be worried about their retirement funds (58%), followed by Georgia (60%), Oklahoma (61.1%), Tennessee (61.5%), and Arizona (62%).
  • Respondents in Hawaii are most likely to be “very worried” about the possibility of an extended recession (28%), followed by New Jersey (25.5%), Massachusetts (25.4%), Vermont (25.3%), and Delaware (25.1%).
  • Respondents in Alabama are least likely to be “very worried” about the possibility of an extended recession (18%), followed by Georgia (19%), Mississippi (19%), Oklahoma (19%), and Tennessee (20%).

“The connection between health and wealth is well documented, both for individual factors like financial worry as well as community-level social determinants like economic stability,” said Elizabeth Colyer, senior vice president at Sharecare and head of the Community Well-Being Index. “During this unprecedented time, we see a unique situation in which financial worry is intensifying across all socioeconomic levels, and, in parallel, economic social determinants are increasing the divide between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots.’ So while personal perceptions and risk are impacted across all populations, it is our community context – the physical and social surroundings as they relate to the ways we live and act – that continues to divide us, creating the need to deliver interventions that address both individual risk and institutional inequity.”

More than one-third of national respondents to Flatten the Curve report experiencing one or more financial stressors, including change in pay, likelihood of retaining employment, and ability to pay bills. Among national respondents in the workforce, 23% report pay decreases while 12% indicate job loss, and 22% note they are likely to lose their job in the future due to COVID-19. Further, 27% of respondents indicate that they are somewhat or very likely to have trouble paying their bills, while respondents with no health insurance are five times more likely to have trouble paying their bills than those with health insurance. Research on Flatten the Curve also found that each type of financial stressor tracked was associated with higher odds of experiencing negative health behavior changes across exercise, eating habits, sleep and alcohol consumption – of which 58% of Flatten the Curve respondents exhibited one or more of since COVID-19.

While results from Flatten the Curve shed light on many challenges facing the country at this time, there also are signals pointing to some positive outcomes as more than 50% of respondents indicate they are engaging in at least one healthier behavior change since COVID-19. When reviewing respondent data across health behavior elements surveyed, the following national and statewide trends emerge:

  • Exercise: Among national respondents, 70% are exercising more or maintaining their previous routine while 30% are exercising less during COVID-19. When examining exercise trends by state:
    • Respondents in Alabama are most likely to be exercising as much or more since COVID-19 (77%), followed by Nebraska (76%), Mississippi (76%), Kentucky (76%), and Missouri (75%).
    • Respondents in Alaska are most likely to be exercising less since COVID-19 (46%), followed by Hawaii (40%), California (37%), New York (36%), and Nevada (36%). 
  • Eating habits: Among national respondents, 75% indicate their eating habits have stayed the same or are healthier, while 25% are eating less healthy during COVID-19. When examining eating trends by state:
    • Respondents in Vermont are most likely to be eating as healthy or healthier since COVID-19 (82%), followed by Nebraska (78%), Missouri (78%), Colorado (78%), and South Dakota (78%).
    • Respondents in Massachusetts are most likely to be eating less healthy since COVID-19 (31%), followed by Delaware (30%), Idaho (30%), New Hampshire (29%), and Washington, D.C. (29%).
  • Sleep: Among national respondents, 77% indicate they are sleeping the same amount or more, while 23% are sleeping less during COVID-19. When examining sleep trends by state:
    • Respondents in Tennessee are most likely to be sleeping the same amount or more since COVID-19 (80.4%), followed by North Dakota (80%), Kansas (79.91%), Minnesota (79.89%), and Montana (79.83%).
    • Respondents in New Mexico are most likely to be sleeping less since COVID-19 (30%), followed by Vermont (29%), New York (29%), Massachusetts (28%), and New Hampshire (28%).
  • Alcohol consumption: Among national respondents who consume alcohol, 78% indicate their drinking has stayed the same or lessened, while 22% are drinking more during COVID-19. When examining alcohol consumption by state:
    • Respondents in South Dakota are most likely to be drinking the same amount or less since COVID-19 (88%), followed by North Dakota (85%), Iowa (85%), Mississippi (85%), and Montana (84%).
    • Respondents in Georgia are most likely to be drinking more alcohol since COVID-19 (31%), followed by Washington, D.C. (27%), Massachusetts (26%), New York (26%), and Maryland (25%).

Dr. Galea added, “While it may feel like we, as individual Americans, have little control over what happens in our lives right now, it is our personal choices that can be the difference-maker for our communities and our country – especially during this pandemic. While it’s far too early to predict the ‘end’ of COVID-19, one thing that will be critical to our resiliency and recovery throughout this global health crisis is within our own control – making the healthiest, safest choices we can each day for ourselves, and supporting our friends and family in doing the same for themselves.”

Flatten the Curve is designed to assess and promote better understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on both individuals and populations, including risk tied to COVID-19 transmission, adherence to policies and mandates, and changes in well-being across financial and physical resilience, social and community context, and everyday purpose. By examining all aspects of personal well-being – from exposure and anxiety to retirement planning – Sharecare aims to empower people to take an active role in both preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus and caring for their own well-being as they cope with the impact of the pandemic.

Colyer added, “We are thrilled to have such an overwhelming initial response to our Flatten the Curve survey and look forward to our next step in this process – which will be leveraging this data, collected at further scale and alongside the Community Well-Being Index, to fully contextualize the impact COVID-19 has had on our communities and nation at large. While our initial analysis of survey responses demonstrates challenges tied to well-being – in particular, as it relates to mental and financial elements – our goal is to ensure these results can be extrapolated across all demographics and spatial scales, enabling hyper-targeted interventions that expedite our collective recovery from this unprecedented pandemic.”

To access more information about Flatten the Curve, including a dashboard of select survey results and methodology, visit sharecare.com/surveyresults. To contribute your voice to the effort, take the survey now at sharecare.com/survey.

About Sharecare

Sharecare is the digital health company that helps people manage all their health in one place. The Sharecare platform provides each person – no matter where they are in their health journey – with a comprehensive and personalized health profile where they can dynamically and easily connect to the information, evidence-based programs and health professionals they need to live their healthiest, happiest and most productive life. In addition to providing individual consumers with direct access to award-winning and innovative frictionless technologies, scientifically validated clinical protocols and best-in-class coaching tools, Sharecare also helps providers, employers and health plans effectively scale outcomes-based health and wellness solutions across their entire populations. To learn more, visit www.sharecare.com.

 

[1] Results based on responses received through April 28, 2020.

[2] Estimated based on comparison of general worry prior to COVID-19 from the Community Well-Being Index and Flatten the Curve responses to “How worried are you about the novel Coronavirus?”