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MDLIVE Intergenerational Study Shows Mental Health of American Families At-Risk

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  • Economic issues are top stressor for adults and teenagers, and impact more women than men
  • Gen Z continues to experience more mental health challenges than other age groups, however, younger members of Gen Z are doing better
  • Boomerang effect between the mental health of teenagers and mothers confirms gender disparity in mental health experiences within families 

MIRAMAR, Fla., August 9, 2023 –A new report released today shows the mental health of American families continues to be at-risk, with only one in three study participants reporting their family mental health at a very good level. Economic issues, including inflation, food prices, and gas prices are the top three stressors, and teens are as likely or more likely than adults to be affected.

Perhaps exacerbating the impact on families’ mental health, most respondents reported that economic pressures are getting worse, not better, and nearly seven in ten said their family could do more to support each other’s mental health.  

“Despite commendable efforts to expand resources and support, families continue to grapple with mental health concerns,” said Dr. Shakira Espada-Campos, associate chief of behavioral health, MDLIVE. “What is particularly striking is the breadth of those struggles across the entire family, and that many issues equally impact parents and children.” 

The report, Family Matters: The State of Family Mental Health in the U.S. is based on a study of 1,500 Americans aged 13 and older commissioned by MDLIVE, an Evernorth company. The intergenerational data provides unique insights about the complex interplay of socioeconomic, interpersonal, and cultural factors impacting the mental health of the family unit. Overall, it highlights the importance of understanding family dynamics in the context of mental health to better provide behavioral health support for families.

The Gen Z Divide

Gen Z is experiencing more mental health challenges than other generations, and the data suggests a different experience for older members of Gen Z (aged 18-24) than younger members of Gen Z (aged 13-17).

Younger Gen Z respondents were four times more likely to report good mental health than older members of Gen Z (55% vs 12%), and an alarming one in three (34%) older Gen Z respondents don’t feel they can rely on their family for support when experiencing stress or mental health struggles, compared to just 14% of younger Gen Z.

“Due to the impact of COVID-19 on daily life, older members of Gen Z spent their critical adolescence not only missing important academic and social rites of passage, but also lacking exposure to experiences that help develop coping methods and resiliency,” said Dr. Espada-Campos. “Now in the initial stages of adult independence, the data suggests many young adults are disadvantaged by missing those critical skills.” 

The Persistent Gender Gap

Women were far more likely than men to report their mental health is affected by childcare duties and caring for elderly or sick relatives and were far more likely to be the mental health caregiver for teens, adult children, and their spouses. Women were 24% more likely than men to report they struggle the most with mental health in their family, and were more likely to report experiencing stress, anxiety, and feeling emotionally drained. This dynamic creates a mental health boomerang effect for teens, who were three times as likely to say their mother’s mental health affects them compared to their father’s.  

While the study identifies gaps in mental health support structures, it also highlights the role open communication and mutual support play in enhancing mental health within the family unit.

To read the full “Family Matters” report, visit MDLIVE.com/company/resources/.

To learn more about family behavioral health services, visit MDLIVE.com.

Survey Methodology

“Family Matters: A Report on the State of Family Mental Health in the U.S.” was based on a nationally representative survey of 1,505 consumers aged 13 or older conducted April 5-12, 2023. Results of any sample are subject to sampling variation. The magnitude of the variation is measurable and is affected by the number of interviews and the level of the percentages expressing the results. In this study, the chances are 95 in 100 that a survey result does not vary, plus or minus, by more than 3% from the result that would be obtained if interviews had been conducted with all personas in the universe represented by the sample. The margin of error for any subgroups will be slightly higher. Material is a leading global insights firm serving as a partner to more than 100 of the Fortune 500 and thousands of smaller companies and organizations. For more information about Material, please visit www.materialplus.io.

About MDLIVE

MDLIVE is a leading provider of virtual health care services in the U.S. and part of Evernorth’s portfolio of care delivery businesses. We work with our health plan, health system, and self-insured employer partners to give patients simple, convenient and affordable access to the highest quality medical and behavioral health care, 24/7, from the comfort and safety of their homes. With a vision and passion for changing health care for the better, we are working to improve the patient experience, close the patient-provider accessibility gap, and bring providers opportunities to augment the services they currently offer. More than 62 million individuals nationwide have access to MDLIVE as a covered benefit through their health plans and employers. To learn more about MDLIVE, visit www.MDLIVE.com, download our app, or text “Sophie” to MDLIVE (635483) to register.