The world has changed considerably since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but financial stress remains the top source of stress for many Americans, according to a survey this month by Verywell. Close to a third of survey respondents identified finances as their biggest source of stress over the past 30 days, while only 16% chose the COVID-19 pandemic, even as case rates surged across the U.S.
The pandemic contributed to job losses, extra expenses, and other financial difficulties for millions of Americans. Yet, only about a third of those surveyed reported that COVID-19 had a moderate to extreme impact on their financial issues, suggesting that for the majority, financial stressors did not begin—and likely will not end—with the pandemic.
A Sluggish Recovery From Pandemic-Related Financial Stress
For those who were impacted by the pandemic, the survey’s results point toward a slow recovery from money-induced stressors. The share of respondents who said their financial stress was influenced by the pandemic remained at about one third throughout the spring and summer, even as other pandemic-related sources of stress declined.
Overall, nearly half or 45% claimed they had mentally recovered from the pandemic so far, while 27% said they had recovered somewhat, and 17% said they only recovered a little. 11% said they have not recovered at all.
Individuals With Middle and Lower Incomes Stay Stressed Longer
Those with middle and lower incomes before the arrival of COVID-19 were more likely to struggle with their stress longer. More than half of individuals earning under $75,000 a year, and Gen X or younger generations, reported they were still recovering mentally from the pandemic. The median annual household income in the U.S. is $62,843 according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The opposite was true for older generations and individuals with annual incomes of $75,000 or more, with more than half claiming they’ve effectively recovered. White and male respondents were also more likely to say they’ve recovered.
Loss of Income Comes With Side Effects
Job losses in particular tended to come with a number of side effects, the survey notes. Those who lost jobs during the pandemic were significantly more likely to have difficulty sleeping, maintaining focus, and had less interest in leaving the house or spending time with family and friends. Irritability and changes in eating habits were common too.
“In essence, a money problem becomes an everything problem,” said Verywell Mind Editor-in-Chief Amy Morin.
Financial stress stemming from unemployment can become a stickier problem to resolve as well. The majority or 62% of those who lost jobs indicated the pandemic is still negatively affecting their finances, and only 26% said they had fully recovered mentally from their losses.
Earlier this month, the Department of Labor (DOL) reported U.S. employers added 943,000 jobs in July, in the greatest monthly gain since August of last year, but that an estimated 8.7 million Americans remain unemployed.