COVID-19 hasn’t just affected people’s physical health. The pandemic has also had a profound and prolonged impact on people’s mental health. Over the last year, more and more people have reached out for help dealing with stress, anxiety or depression.

Our team of analysts found that the number of people taking prescription mental health medication has steadily increased since the beginning of the pandemic. More than 24% of Americans are now taking prescription mental health medication — that’s 1 out of every 4 people. These numbers should not be stigmatized or taken lightly because they point to the serious impact COVID-19 is having on Americans’ mental health.

Key findings:

  • Nationwide, 28 states have seen 10%-50% increases in the number of people taking prescription mental health medication in the last year.
  • Arkansas, New Mexico and New York had the largest increases in people taking mental health medication.
  • Montana, Nevada and Hawaii saw the largest decreases in the number of people taking mental health medication.
  • The number of women prescribed mental health medication increased by 8% over the last year.
  • Nearly 1 in 4 people are currently taking prescription mental health medication.

Nationwide, the average number of people taking prescription mental health medication has gone up by nearly 20% since the beginning of the year. This increase, however, varies significantly from state to state.

usa mental health prescriptions

The increase in prescriptions for mental health medications also crosses traditional demographic lines. We found a nearly 10% increase among men and women and within black and white communities. Hispanic communities meanwhile saw a 14% increase and Asian communities had a 20% decrease.

COVID-19 AND MENTAL HEALTH PRESCRIPTIONS
State % of people currently taking prescription mental health medication % increase in people taking prescription mental health medication (January 2021 - Present)
Alabama 29% 26%
Alaska 22% 13%
Arizona 23% 20%
Arkansas 34% 34%
California 15% -9%
Colorado 26% 22%
Connecticut 20% -2%
Delaware 22% 13%
Florida 17% -16%
Georgia 22% 2%
Hawaii 13% -19%
Idaho 25% 15%
Illinois 21% -10%
Indiana 28% 7%
Iowa 24% -6%
Kansas 26% 20%
Kentucky 29% 13%
Louisiana 31% 25%
Maine 23% -6%
Maryland 21% 1%
Massachusetts 24% 13%
Michigan 26% 18%
Minnesota 23% -1%
Mississippi 27% 2%
Missouri 28% 17%
Montana 18% -29%
Nebraska 26% 5%
Nevada 15% -23%
New Hampshire 26% 6%
New Jersey 21% 27%
New Mexico 22% 42%
New York 23% 50%
North Carolina 26% 12%
North Dakota 26% 14%
Ohio 26% 32%
Oklahoma 26% 13%
Oregon 26% 24%
Pennsylvania 28% 16%
Rhode Island 26% -5%
South Carolina 24% -15%
South Dakota 24% 18%
Tennessee 25% 15%
Texas 21% 18%
United States 24% 20%
Utah 27% 8%
Vermont 21% 0%
Virginia 20% -3%
Washington 22% 0%
West Virginia 32% 24%
Wisconsin 18% -17%
Wyoming 27% 32%

demographic mental health prescriptions

The rise in prescriptions for mental health medications coincides with a growing trend we have been following since before the COVID-19 pandemic began. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average number of people who took medication for mental health reasons was 15.8% in 2019. That same average is now 24%. The ongoing pandemic has been and continues to be a time of great uncertainty; people should be applauded for having the courage to reach out and ask for help. If you or someone you know is struggling during this difficult time, please consider reaching out to one of the organizations below.

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

National Alliance on Mental Illness

Most insurance plans cover some form of mental health care. Coverage varies, but this often includes access to therapy, counseling and prescription drug coverage. Additionally, both Medicare and all Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) marketplace plans are required to cover mental health services.

Methodology

To determine the percentage increase in the number of people taking prescription mental health medication, we analyzed Pulse Survey data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The data range went from January, 2021 to October 15, 2021.