Why Is Mental Health Getting Worse?

April 16, 2024

Mental health issues have increasingly been growing into an international problem. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that around one billion people globally live with a disorder of this kind. And no, the US isn’t spared of this trend—the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) states that nearly one in five US adults suffer from a mental illness. But why is mental health getting worse day by day?

In this article, we’ll dive deep into the rise of this epidemic, particularly in the United States, and explore impacts, factors, and influences that make this modern trend worse, including:

  • Social isolation
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Social media

Let’s start our comprehensive analysis with a chronological reflection on mental health.

Historical Perspective on Mental Health

Historically speaking, mental health issues were often stigmatized and misunderstood. In ancient times, people attributed illnesses of this sort to divine punishment or supernatural forces. During the Middle Ages, those suffering from mental ailments were often isolated or subjected to inhumane treatment.

In contrast, the 19th century saw a stark rise in asylums aiming to provide care. Still, most of these sanatoria ended up being places of abuse, neglect, or both.

It was only in the 20th century that we witnessed significant changes with the advent of psychoanalysis and the development of psychiatric medications. This period also saw a shift from staying in long-stay psychiatric institutions to community mental health services and the growth of community-based care.

Even with this, mental health began to be recognized as a critical component of overall cognitive aptness only in the latter half of the 20th century.

Yes, it took us a long time.

A woman staring through a fence, a potential sign of the rise of mental health issues
Mental health issues have drawn the attention of policymakers only in the recent few decades

Finally, today’s societies and governments recognize and accept psychological issues as serious problems. That’s partly because of advocacy and awareness initiatives. The rise of digital media, especially social media, has played a role. For example, platforms like Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram provide an outlet for individuals to share their experiences and for mental health campaigns to reach a wider audience. 

Most encouragingly, there is a growing understanding of the psychological, biological, and social factors that contribute to mental health. This, in turn, led mental health services in Arkansas to devise a more comprehensive approach to treatment and diagnosis. For example, holistic care and ongoing support now comprise the biggest assets in battling concerns of this sort.

Now, to our main point: What’s going on with the decline of cognitive faculties in our country?

Why Is Mental Health Getting Worse in America?

Several factors contribute to the decline of mental health in the US.

For simplicity’s sake, we’ll cover the following:

  1. Societal and environmental factors
  2. Technological influences
  3. Biological and psychological factors
  4. Impact of global events

So, let’s start at the beginning.

#1: Societal and Environmental Factors

Societal and environmental factors play a major role in shaping our mental health. Among these, economic insecurity, social isolation, and political unrest stand out as key contributors to the mental well-being of our nation—or lack thereof.

To top it off, recent research shows the apparent link between these factors and the rise of mental health disorders.

Economic Insecurity

Job instability, financial stress, and income inequality have a profound effect on your mental well-being. The uncertainty associated with financial struggles often leads to increased rates of depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders.

The fear of losing your job or not being able to meet your basic needs creates a chronic state of stress. That’s why mental health professionals recommend getting in touch with anxiety treatment centers in Arkansas to prevent symptoms from exacerbating your existing mental health issues—or triggering new ones.

Social Isolation and Loneliness

Social isolation and loneliness are increasingly prevalent in modern society. One reason is that there have been massive changes in our living arrangements—and another reason is the rise of digital interactions.

For illustration, the shift toward individualistic lifestyles and overreliance on social media for communication sometimes leads to feelings of disconnection and isolation.

A couple touching hands in a state of mental health distress
Relying too much on social media can wreak havoc on in-person relationships

Loneliness isn’t only a risk factor for anxiety and depression. In fact, it can also have a detrimental impact on physical health, equivalent to obesity and smoking.

Political and Social Unrest

Conflicts, political divisiveness, and social inequalities can largely affect our mental health. For instance, the constant exposure to political clashes and social injustices often leads to feelings of:

  • Powerlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Anger

Living in a politically charged environment can cause stress, uncertainty, and fear. In turn, this can heavily impact your mental well-being.

To address these environmental and societal factors, we need a comprehensive approach that includes community support, policy changes, and increased awareness of their impact on mental health.

#2: Technological Influences

Technological advances, especially those in the realm of information accessibility and social media, have had profound effects on our mental health as a society. Although they offer opportunities for self-expression and connection, social media platforms have also been linked to a range of mental health issues.

For example, the constant comparison with others’ curated lives can lead to feelings of low self-esteem and inadequacy. To top it off, the pressure to maintain a certain image online often exacerbates depression and anxiety. That’s especially the case with young people—a group that is particularly vulnerable to the influence of social media. Plenty of studies have demonstrated a clear link between social media and the increase in mental health issues.

A despairing woman with clenched fists
Social media platforms like TikTok have been linked to a slew of mental health issues

Apart from social media, information overload in the digital age has also dramatically impacted our cognitive faculties. For example, here’s what makes this phenomenon overwhelming:

  • News
  • Notifications
  • Data

The need to stay constantly informed and in touch with others leads to difficulties concentrating, disrupted sleep patterns, and a general sense of unease. Similarly, 24/7 access to information exposes you to negative news and events more frequently than was the case decades ago.

That can’t be good.

But technology offers many benefits. So, it’s up to you to seek out what’s good and what’s bad.

#3: Biological and Psychological Factors

Biological and psychological factors play a crucial role in shaping our mental aptness. For example, genetic predispositions are significant contributors, as certain mental health conditions have been linked to familial patterns. They include:

Researchers have consistently shown that people with a family history of these disorders are at a higher risk of developing them. Of course, this suggests a genetic component. Still, it’s critical to note that genetics isn’t the same as destiny. In fact, environmental factors and personal experiences also play a part in the manifestation of these conditions.

In modern society, health and lifestyle choices wield a deep influence on psychological well-being. For illustration, here are a few behavioral patterns that trigger mental health issues:

  • Poor dietary habits
  • Sedentary behavior
  • Disrupted sleep patterns

In contrast, regular physical activity has reportedly been effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Apart from that, a balanced diet and adequate sleep are essential if you want to maintain overall mind fitness.

A man facepalming himself, a potential indication of the increase in mental disorders in the population
Lack of sleep can exacerbate symptoms of some disorders

Likewise, abusing alcohol, drugs, and tobacco can affect your mental health. These substances alter your brain chemistry and lead to the development or worsening of your cognitive potency. Yet, something often neglected is that the stress of managing the consequences of substance abuse can further deteriorate your mental well-being.

To be more precise, some of these consequences entail:

  • Legal issues
  • Financial problems
  • Strained relationships

To sum up, both psychological and biological factors—including modern lifestyle choices and genetic predispositions—play integral roles in the state of mental health in Arkansas and the rest of the U.S.

#4: Impact of Global Events

Pandemics and environmental crises can severely damage the mental health of those suffering from these wide-ranging catastrophes. For example, the Covid-19 pandemic has triggered a significant increase in anxiety, depression, and stress-related symptoms.

Here are some of the things that have contributed to this surge in mental health problems:

  • Social isolation
  • Economic uncertainties
  • Fear of contracting the virus
  • Grief over the loss of loved ones

In particular, healthcare workers and frontline responders faced immense psychological strain due to the pressures and demands of the pandemic.

Moreover, the pandemic has disrupted access to mental health services. As a result, this has exacerbated the situation for those already concerned with their mental well-being. Most worryingly, the long-term consequences of Covid-19 are still unfolding. Yet, by now, it’s clear that the pandemic has had a far-reaching impact on the state of mental health worldwide. 

But pandemics are (sadly) just one side of the coin.

In addition, environmental crises like climate change also contribute to issues related to your cognitive well-being. Interestingly, some people face climate anxiety (also called eco-anxiety). In fact, that’s a growing concern some experience due to:

  • Global warming
  • Natural disasters
  • Loss of biodiversity
A woman staring through the window with a cup of tea in her hands
The pandemic laid waste to the mental well-being of many, young and old

In this situation, people may feel uncertain and unable to control environmental changes. All this results in feelings of helplessness, despair, and anxiety. Along similar lines, the direct impact of hurricanes, floods, and wildfires can have immediate and long-term effects on affected populations.

Generally speaking, global events of this kind drastically influence how people feel about their mental well-being. In the face of these challenges, it’s important to create robust support systems and apply resilience-building strategies.

All of that leads us to ask the question: What can be done about this mental health crisis in the U.S. and the rest of the world?

What Can Be Done About This Mental Health Crisis?

Addressing the myriad issues contributing to deteriorating cognitive abilities requires a multifaceted approach. This strategy should account for individual and broader systemic strategies.

Individually speaking, anyone can take steps to manage or improve their mental well-being.

So, let’s list a few of the most powerful techniques:

  • Engaging in self-care: Regular exercise, adequate sleep, and a balanced diet are critical for maintaining mental health. Relish activities that bring you relaxation and joy, such as mindfulness practices and hobbies.
  • Seeking support: Reach out to family, friends, or healthcare professionals for support. Counseling, therapy, and support groups are valuable resources for addressing mental health concerns.
  • Setting boundaries: Limit exposure to stressors, such as reducing time spent on social media or setting boundaries in relationships.
  • Educating yourself: Understand the nature of your mental health condition—and learn coping strategies to empower yourself to manage symptoms effectively.

On a larger, systemic and societal scale, the following changes need to occur:

  • Tackling the root causes of mental health issues, such as social isolation, economic inequality, and environmental degradation.
  • Ensuring that services in this sector are readily available, accessible, and affordable. To that effect, you can check out admissions requirements in different mental health institutions country-wide.
  • Increasing public awareness and understanding of mental well-being helps reduce stigma and encourages everyone affected to seek help.

If we combine individual efforts with systemic changes, we can create a more supportive environment for mental health and address the complex factors contributing to its decline.

Find Balance Today

Many factors contribute to the worsening state of mental well-being in the US and globally.

So, we must rethink our approach to mental health to address issues like economic insecurity, social isolation, and the nefarious impact of social media. Likewise, it’s prime time to grapple with the consequences of environmental crises and the COVID-19 pandemic.

To make rapid progress on this course, we need to take the following steps:

  • Engage in self-care
  • Seek support
  • Set boundaries
  • Educate ourselves

However, we must complement these efforts with societal and systemic changes. For instance, we can improve access to healthcare, address social determinants, and promote mental health awareness. In other words, it’s a collective responsibility for communities, policymakers, and individuals to create a more supportive environment and address the root causes of the worsening state of cognitive functions.

But first, let’s start small.

Contact Time Wellness Arkansas today to find your way to relief and hope!