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VCU Poll: Pandemic takes toll on mental health, helps personal relationships

Posted at 2:01 PM, Aug 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-18 14:01:44-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- A new VCU Wilder School poll showed that while nearly half of Virginia's population experienced mental health problems due to the COVID-19 pandemic, minority populations were among the most impacted from a financial standpoint.

The poll found nearly 43 percent of Virginia adults said the pandemic had a negative impact on their mental health.

"Asians (44%) were most likely to report feelings of worry or stress due to the pandemic, followed by whites (43%) and African Americans (41%)," a spokesperson for the Wilder School explained. "At 30%, Hispanics were the least likely to report feelings of stress or worry."

While the majority of the 872 people polled said COVID did not cause them a major financial setback, of those who did, Black respondents were nearly three times more likely than white respondents to have fallen behind in rent or mortgage payments and more than twice as likely to have fallen behind on credit cards and other bills.

“Is it new or surprising? It shouldn’t be because it’s been a historical part of America," former Virginia Governor and Richmond Mayor Douglas Wilder said. "Nothing is new because they have always been stressed, transportation needs to get to a job if you can find a job, education needs in terms of qualifying for that job.”

When it comes to healthcare, Wilder said a growing racial divide disproportionately affected people of color at every level of services.

That was especially true, he said, when it came to mental healthcare.

"It’s all tied together because if you’re not going to deal with the basic issues relative to disparity and inequity at every level, you’re leaving opportunities for the breach to widen and continue," he said.

While the poll showed white respondents were more than twice as likely to report increased use of tobacco, alcohol, and other substances, Black respondents were more likely to report difficulty concentrating and making decisions.

Wilder said regardless of race, the pandemic has shown mental health care needs cannot continue to be neglected.

“I think it ought to be understood that it’s not a scourge, it’s nothing to be ashamed of," he said.

The poll also found 44% of respondents saw improvements in their personal relationships with family and friends and 43% saw improvements in how they spend their free time.

The segment is sponsored by WHOA Behavioral Health.