Many Americans Report Weight, Sleep Changes A Year Into Pandemic

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Many Americans Report Weight, Sleep Changes A Year Into Pandemic
A new report from the American Psychological Association suggests we're not all doing the best job coping with pandemic-related stress.
SHOW TRANSCRIPT

"Everyone's lives changed in the blink of an eye a year ago” Frankie Millington told Newsy.

Frankie Millington is an essential worker who is working through his anxiety, depression and eating disorder. Over a year, he’s felt the strain the pandemic has had on his mental health. 

"My panic attacks started to increase a lot. And then that would just send me into bouts of like depression where I would just lay catatonic in my bed for, like, five hours."

Samantha Khalil gave up after nearly a year of isolating from others and went to a birthday party. She got COVID-19.

“Everyone's going to look at each other and be like, 'Shame on you. You knew better.' But we all know better. Yet we still desire that connection."

They are by no means alone. Millions of people have felt some pandemic stress at some point since March 2020. 

"I could feel the stress of everything getting to me," Jennifer Patterson said.

"I’m willing to try anything just to feel like me again," Mickela Harris said.

“[I’m] a little bit worried. Does this become the norm?” Glenn Stempeck said.

A new report from the American Psychological Association looks at stress in America as we hit a year into the novel coronavirus pandemic, and it's showing up in the ways we’re coping. 

The majority of adults, 61%, experienced undesired weight changes – weight gain or loss -- since the pandemic started, gaining an average of 29 pounds. Two in three, 67%, said they have been sleeping more or less than desired since the pandemic started. Nearly one in four adults, 23%, reported drinking more alcohol to cope with their stress.

"The advice just isn't getting through. People have reached this moment of fatigue where they really have lost that ability to identify what is stressful for them and how to manage it in a more appropriate way," Vaile Wright, senior director for health care innovation at the American Psychological Association, said.

Wright says the groups reporting some of the highest levels of problematic coping are those that are already really vulnerable.

"Essential workers, including front-line workers; parents, as I mentioned, with children under the age of 18; young adults; as well as individuals from communities of color," Wright said.

"We also need to think about the the long-term impacts of the pandemic on not only the mental health of kids, but also in terms of their social and emotional development," says Dr. Erlanger Turner, a psychologist, associate professor at Pepperdine University and the founder of Therapy for Black Kids.

People without stable housing, access to food or money for their bills will suffer mentally without systemic help, but that it also comes down to more access to therapies in places like work, school or church -- something that could be an issue long past the pandemic.

"If this pattern continues without a change, then what we could really see are some pretty significant long-term physical and mental health consequences for many years to come," Wright said.

Newsy's Cat Sandoval and Bianca Facchinei contributed to this report.