High rates of depression and anxiety a challenge in Minnesota

A man leans on his table looking sad and looking out his window
Minnesotans report better mental health than most of nation, but mental health challenges remain compared to pre-pandemic.
Andrew Neel via Pexels

The U.S. Census Bureau has regularly conducted its Household Pulse Survey since May of 2020, asking tens of thousands of Americans detailed questions about whether they’ve had COVID, whether they’ve gotten the vaccine, employment status, how they are getting childcare, how they are getting food and the status of their mental health.

For the mental health questions, they specifically ask if people have recently experienced certain specific symptoms of anxiety or depression. If a respondent has enough symptoms enough of the time, they are considered to be reporting symptoms consistent with major depressive disorder and/or generalized anxiety disorder. (Much more on the data and survey methodology here.) The following figures use the percentage of people reporting such symptoms — for anxiety, depression or both.

On the whole, fewer of the surveyed Minnesotans report feeling anxious or depressed compared to people in most other states. And, it appears to be a pattern in general for upper Midwest states. The map below shows the percent of people with anxiety, depression or both. Using that metric, Minnesota has the nation’s third-lowest rate, behind the Dakotas. That ranking stays the same for anxiety specifically, but for depression alone, Minnesota actually ranks as the least depressed among all states.

This may sound like relatively good news for Minnesotans, but both Minnesotans and Americans overall continue to struggle with anxiety and depression at much higher rates than before the pandemic.

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A similar survey from 2019 found that 6.5 percent of U.S. adults had symptoms of depression while 8.1 percent had symptoms of anxiety. The same rates during the pandemic have been about four times that.

Looking over time since the survey began in May 2020, rates of anxiety and depression were particularly high through the spring of 2021. They then declined and hit a relative low point in summer 2021 — when many were newly vaccinated and cases were low before the start of the delta variant.

Minnesotans less depressed than national average
Americans and Minnesotans report much higher levels of depression than before the pandemic, although fewer Minnesotans report depression compared to the national average.
Elisabeth Gawthrop | APM Research Lab
American anxiety up to May 2020 levels
After falling somewhat in 2021, anxiety is on the rise again in America - and much higher than pre-pandemic levels.
Elisabeth Gawthrop | APM Research Lab

Unfortunately, for the nation as a whole, anxiety in particular looks to be on the rise again. In the latest survey this Sept., the share of people experiencing anxiety was similar to rates seen in May and June 2020. The specific stressors may differ, but America's mental health remains a major public health concern.

Rates of depression and anxiety particularly high for some groups of Americans

In addition to asking about economic and health concerns, the Household Pulse Survey also collects demographic information. Using this data, we find that young people, those with a disability and those who identify as transgender or bisexual have reported the highest rates of anxiety and depression. The survey does not present this demographic detail by state, so the results shown are for the nation overall.

People identifying as transgender report the highest rates of anxiety and depression — an average of 66 percent of transgender respondents reported such symptoms, which is approaching double the national average of 35 percent.

Another stark difference is between those who have a disability (62 percent report anxiety or depression) and those who do not (26 percent report anxiety or depression).

Finally, the ‘kids’ are not alright. As has been widely reported, young adults have much higher rates of anxiety and depression than older adults, with rates decreasing steadily with age. And at a rate of about 20 percent experiencing anxiety or depression, adults who are at least 70 years old have the lowest such rates of all demographic groups represented in the survey.