WASHINGTON, D.C. — Americans’ positive self-assessments of their mental health are the lowest in more than two decades of Gallup polling. In all, 31% of U.S. adults describe their mental health or emotional wellbeing as “excellent,” the worst rating by three percentage points.
Another 44% of Americans rate their mental health as “good,” and the 75% combined excellent and good rating is the lowest on record and 10 points shy of the average since 2001. In addition, 17% of U.S. adults describe their mental health as “only fair” and 7% as “poor.” The latter figure is the highest in Gallup’s trend.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans’ “excellent” ratings of their mental health averaged 45%. Gallup polling early in the pandemic found that U.S. adults were concerned about their own mental health and that of their children. By November 2020, eight months after the pandemic began in the U.S., Americans’ excellent assessments of their own mental health dropped nine points to 34%, a new low since the measure was first tracked in 2001.
Last year, the reading was unchanged. The latest three-point dip in excellent mental health evaluations, from a Nov. 9-Dec. 2 Gallup poll, suggests that although the pandemic has improved, some of its ill effects remain. These include economic concerns precipitated by the highest inflation rate in more than four decades.
Women, young U.S. adults and those with lower annual household incomes are least likely to rate their mental health positively.
Adults aged 18-34 and those with household incomes under $100,000 are less likely now than they were last year to say their mental health is excellent.
Mental Health Visits Have Increased Since 2004
Data from the same poll show that nearly one-quarter of U.S. adults, 23%, report having visited a psychologist, therapist, psychiatrist or some other mental health professional in the past 12 months. This marks a sizable uptick in mental health visits since the question was last asked in 2004, when 13% of U.S. adults said they had seen a mental health professional. At that time, a record-high 51% of Americans rated their mental health as excellent — 20 points higher than today. In 2001, the only other year Gallup asked about mental health visits, 10% reported seeing a professional and 43% described their mental health as excellent.
U.S. adults averaged 3.2 mental health visits in 2022, compared with 1.5 in 2004 and 1.1 in 2001. Thirteen percent of Americans visited a mental health professional five or more times in 2022, compared with 6% in 2004 and 5% in 2001.
Given the length of time between the measurements, the cause of this increase in mental health visits is unclear but likely the result of a number of factors. It may be related partly to the pandemic; to a growing appreciation for the importance of good mental health; to reduced stigma about seeking treatment — particularly among young adults versus older adults; to changes in the ways health insurance plans cover mental health treatment; or to other factors.
U.S. adults who rate their own mental health negatively on balance are more likely to report that they have seen a mental health professional than those who rate their mental health positively. Four in five of the 24% of U.S. adults who say their mental health is only fair or poor say they have sought mental healthcare, while just one in five of the 75% who rate their mental health as excellent or good have sought help.
U.S. adults who rate their mental health as only fair or poor say they saw a mental health professional an average of 8.1 times in 2022. This compares with an average 1.6 visits in the past year among those who rate their mental health as excellent or good.
Younger adults and women, who are more likely than their counterparts to rate their own mental health negatively, are also more likely to say they have sought mental healthcare in the past year.
U.S. adults 18-34 years old report an average of 5.9 mental health visits in the past year, compared with those 3.7 visits among those aged 35-54 and 1.0 among those 55 and older. Women report an average 3.7 visits in 2022 compared with 2.1 for men.
Physical Health Ratings Less Affected by Pandemic
Americans have consistently rated their physical health less positively than their mental health. Although U.S. adults’ latest “excellent” physical health assessment of 26% is the lowest on record by one point, that rating has been less variable over time and has not been significantly affected by the pandemic. An additional 47% of Americans say their physical health is “good,” while 21% describe it as “only fair” and 5% as “poor.”
Young adults’ assessments of their physical health remain significantly more positive than their older counterparts’, in sharp contrast to their mental health evaluations. Upper-income Americans continue to be most likely to say their physical health is excellent, with positive evaluations lessening as income levels decline.
Ninety percent of Americans now report that they have visited a medical doctor at least once in the past 12 months, with an average of 5.6 visits in 2022. In 2004, the last time Gallup asked the question, 91% had visited a doctor, and the average number of visits was 6.3. Physical health ratings were better in 2004 than they are now — 32% described their physical health as excellent and 48% as good.
U.S. adults who say their physical health is excellent or good averaged 4.1 doctor visits in 2022. At the same time, those who characterize their health as only fair or poor averaged 9.8 visits. Older adults say they saw their medical doctors more than younger adults do. Those aged 18-34 averaged 4.6 visits, while those in the 35-54 and 55 and older age categories saw their doctors an average of 6 times in the past year.
While majorities of Americans continue to rate their mental and physical health as excellent or good, the percentages saying each is excellent are the lowest on record. Mental health ratings remain lower than their prepandemic levels, while physical health ratings have been less affected by the pandemic. At a time when Americans’ self-reports of mental health are their worst in over two decades, more U.S. adults — particularly those who are younger — are seeking help.