May 10, 2023, 4:02 am UTC
Snapshot: Trends in online mental health screening
Have you ever taken an online mental health screen? If so, you're far from alone.
According to new data released by Mental Health America, 6.3 million people worldwide completed a mental health screen in 2022. A staggering number (65 percent) were women.
When the nonprofit organization began releasing data in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, about 1 million people used the screening tools to check their mental health concerns. In 2021, that number spiked to 5.4 million, climbing further in 2022.
In 2022, more than 6.3 million people took a mental health screen globally, a nearly 138% increase from 2020 and a 19% increase from 2021. (Source: Mental Health America)
"The data shows that people are still concerned about their mental health, even though we're through the thick of the pandemic," says Khendra Lucas, a research associate at Mental Health America who authored this year's report. "There's still a crisis."
In addition to the total number of screens, the 2022 data showed:
- 78% of users in the U.S. scored positive or with moderate to severe symptoms of a mental health condition in 2022,
- Rates of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts remained high,
- Depression, anxiety, and bipolar were the most common screens, followed by ADHD.
What's behind the trends? And what do they tell us about the state of mental health today?
What are online mental health screening tests?
Online mental health screening tests are short, clinically validated questionnaires for mental and developmental conditions like depression, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders, and ADHD. They are designed to help people identify what might be wrong – and orient them toward the appropriate solutions, but do not provide a diagnosis. They are also free, anonymous, and accessible 24/7 on the Internet.
Mental Health America launched its online screening program in 2014 and currently offers 11 English and two Spanish screenings.
Read our guide to online mental health screeners, including their benefits and limitations, how to use them effectively, and what to do with the results
Why do women screen more than men?
The data is clear: Women are taking online mental health screening tests at a much higher rate than men. And while some may see this as a cause for concern, it's important to consider the reasons behind these numbers.
Despite mental health stigma, women are more likely to seek support.
"They've been socialized to be able to be emotional, and men just don't do that. So, it's no surprise that women screeners come to us in greater frequency," Lucas says.
There are other, less favorable explanations: Women tend to experience traumas that may lead them to seek mental health care. They may also use online mental health screening tools to self-diagnose if they encounter barriers elsewhere. For example, sex and gender differences may lead to underdiagnosis or misdiagnosis of mental conditions and developmental disorders in women.
What's contributing to the mental health crisis?
Mental Health America also surveyed people who completed the screeners about the major contributors to their mental health concerns. They were:
- Body image or self-image
- Relationship problems
- Loneliness or isolation
- Human rights issues affecting women and gender-diverse people
"It was no surprise that body image and self-image was a top concern," says Lucas, pointing to the pandemic-driven changes in body composition and isolation as a potential explanation, as well as with social media use.
She says reproductive rights and LGBTQIA2S rights were also a concern, which may be tied to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and various anti-LGBTQ+ bills.
"A lot of people are afraid that their existing rights are being compromised," says Lucas.