America’s State of Mind 2020

Article | April 2020

America’s State of Mind: Use of Mental Health Medications Increasing with Spread of Coronavirus

New Express Scripts Research Examines Americans’ Use of Mental Health Medications

While COVID-19 makes its mark on the world’s health and economy, new research from Cigna's Express Scripts reveals it is also making a significant impact on our mental health. According to the research, the number of prescriptions filled per week for antidepressant, anti-anxiety and anti-insomnia medications increased 21% between February 16 and March 15, peaking the week ending March 15, when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic.

“Americans have grown increasingly anxious as they’ve seen this global pandemic upend their lives within a very short time. We’re all concerned about our health, our families and our livelihoods, and are struggling with uncertainty,” said Glen Stettin, MD, Senior Vice President & Chief Innovation Officer, Express Scripts. “This analysis, showing that many Americans are turning to medications for relief, demonstrates the serious impact COVID-19 may be having on our nation’s mental health.”

The rise in anti-anxiety medications is particularly striking given data from a new Express Scripts research report, America’s State of Mind, which ,found that until now, the use of anti-anxiety and anti-insomnia medications had been declining over the past five years. The report, which examines mental health medication trends from 2015 through 2019 among 21 million people with employer-funded insurance, documents a decline in the use of anti-anxiety medications of more than 12% and a similar decline in the use of anti-insomnia medications, down 11.3% during this timeframe.

“While the recent increased use of medications to treat anxiety, depression and sleep disorders is sudden, it is understandable given the sudden and significant stress being experienced by millions of Americans during this time,” said Dr. Stettin. “What’s crucial now is ensuring Americans who are experiencing symptoms of these mental health conditions have support and access to their physicians, therapists and educational resources, including digital tools and virtual care and counseling, that can help them cope during this time.”

Cigna has mental health and well-being resources available to help navigate through this current environment. Learn more by visiting our Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Center.