News & Politics
Premium

Here's What the Debate Over Social Distancing Is Doing to Your Mental Health

Protesters gather near the State Capitol in Albany, N.Y., calling for the state to reopen the economy, Saturday, May 16, 2020. During N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo's news conference on Saturday, he mention some additional loosening up of COVID-19 related restrictions but cautioned that the state could see a rise in cases as the economy opens up. To avoid another spike, people will still need to take precautions like social distancing, he said. (AP Photo/Marina Villeneuve)

As some states are beginning to re-open, there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel. But how has the public handled social distancing? Not great, according to a survey from College Finance based on 1,000 respondents.

According to the survey, a mere 2 percent of people haven’t practiced social distancing in the past two weeks, and nearly 7 out of 10 people believe they practice social distancing more than others. Naturally, millennials and Democrats are most likely to believe they have the high ground on social distancing.

The survey also found that 45 percent of respondents believe the public isn’t worried enough about the coronavirus, and that Democrats were far more likely than Republicans to think this way, with 53 percent of Democrats and 32 percent of Republicans believing this. There is also a generational gap. Millennials are far more likely than baby boomers to believe the public isn’t worried enough, with just over a third of baby boomers and just under half of millennials thinking this way. Only 26 percent of all surveyed think people are too worried.

When it comes to assessing how public officials have handled the coronavirus, a whopping 72 percent of Democrats think they haven’t done enough, while 37 percent of Republicans think they haven’t done enough.

But here’s where things get interesting.

Those who believe public officials haven’t done enough are more likely to experience negative mental health effects. “Mental health has gotten markedly worse across the country since January,” according to the study. “Even 38% of those who felt the government had done enough to fight the virus still experienced a decline in their mental health. Psychologists tell us that isolation can be a ‘big trigger’ for those already dealing with mental health issues. Job losses, which are estimated to total 47 million in the U.S. soon, are also enormous triggers for the mental well-being of former employees.”

More than half of Democrats (53 percent) said their mental health has worsened since January, while only 42 percent of Republicans and 37 percent of Independents experienced the same decline.

The correlation between politics and attitudes about the coronavirus is something we’ve seen a lot in various polls. Is it because Democrats are so motivated by their hatred of Trump they have convinced themselves to believe the worst because they want Trump to be blamed for it? Is a side-effect of where Republicans and Democrats are largely getting their coronavirus information from? Or is it because red counties are experiencing a far less severe pandemic than blue counties?

Whatever the answer is, it’s nevertheless shocking how attitudes that should be above politics become so tied to political affiliation. So far, it seems that Trump’s belief that the mortality rate was significantly lower than the early estimates by the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has panned out. The CDC’s latest estimate puts the overall mortality rate at 0.26 percent, and I suspect more data will ultimately bring it down further. Meanwhile, all attempts to provide hope during the pandemic are quickly downplayed by the media and by Democrats, who seem to thrive on despair… which definitely explains why they are more likely to have experienced a decline in mental health during the lockdowns.

Regardless of the political breakdowns, the decline of mental health across the board is a concerning thing that, I dare say, is not fully appreciated by the health experts who seem less concerned about the impact of their recommendations for slowing down the spread of the disease. Any reasonable person would agree that a balanced approached to flattening the curve would have been better than the shutdowns we experienced. The people who are too afraid to open things up are overcome by fear, and they’re letting it consume them.

People need to get back to work. People need to return to normalcy. Otherwise, the situation is just going to get worse.

_____

Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis

Coronavirus Anxiety Costs More Lives Than the Lockdowns Save From COVID-19, Study Finds