The vast majority of US adults (80%) say they will be more mindful about practicing self-care regularly once the pandemic is over, according to a new survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Samueli Integrative Health Programs. Nearly half of Americans (46%) also report that they are struggling to find ways to maintain their whole health (that is, physical, mental, and spiritual health) during the pandemic.
“The pandemic threatens the mental and physical well-being of every American. People are seeking ways to manage their stress, but it isn’t enough,” says Wayne Jonas, MD, executive director of Samueli Integrative Health Programs, in a release. “As we adjust to a new normal, we need to foster a robust, patient-centered healthcare system to better promote self-care.”
More than one in four Americans report a lack of energy (30%), difficulty sleeping (29%), or exercising less (29%) during the pandemic. Nearly half of Americans (47%) report feeling socially isolated, according to the online survey of more than 2,000 adults over age 18 conducted in May 2020.
A majority (64%) say they are focused on their mental health now more than ever. Nearly half of Americans (44%) say they wish they had more guidance and support for practicing self-care during the pandemic. Self-care strategies include lifestyle changes, healthy diet, regular exercise, stress management, and other behavior changes such as smoking cessation.
Compared to before the pandemic, roughly one-third say they are practicing more creative activities (35%), praying more (31%), or engaging in more meaningful conversations with friends and family (31%). Most US adults (83%) report that technology has been essential in helping them to stay connected with others. One in four also report that they are spending more time outdoors or eating healthy foods more.
However, a majority also cite disruptions in obtaining regular and preventative healthcare services: 55% say they are scared to get healthcare during the pandemic. This is felt most acutely by people who have had a household income reduction during the pandemic (64% versus 46% of those whose household income has not decreased due to the pandemic). Nearly half (45%) of all US adults say they have failed to get preventive healthcare (that is, wellness visits, standard vaccinations, screenings, etc) during the pandemic.
“At a time when healthcare is needed the most, a majority of people are scared to seek it out. This not only leaves them without critical immediate care, it also halts necessary preventative care that is vital to chronic disease prevention and management,” Jonas says. “This change in healthcare access will likely have dangerous repercussions for the long-term health of our country. These are also the same risk factors that increase serious illness from COVID-19.”
Jonas says, “As the country begins our recovery, it will inevitably create questions about the future of the healthcare system. The findings from this study show the critical need for a system that empowers individuals to maintain healthy habits they formed and emphasizes strategies that support self-care—like good nutrition, exercising, and stress reduction—alongside guidance from physicians.”