Health

Just 1 in 2 Adults Say It’s Easy to Access Mental Health Care Where They Live

Findings come as health officials warn of pandemic’s effect on mental health

New Morning Consult polling found that roughly half of adults say mental health services are easy to access near where they live — but that 1 in 3 think it’s gotten easier to access those services in recent years. (Getty Images)

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take a toll on people’s mental health, new Morning Consult polling found that roughly half of adults say mental health care is easy to access near where they live — but that 1 in 3 think it’s gotten easier to access those services in recent years.

Public Views Mental Health Care as Tougher to Access Than Primary, Emergency Services

U.S. adults were asked whether it’s easy or difficult to access the following medical services near where they live

Poll conducted Dec. 2-6, 2021, among 2,200 U.S. adults, with a margin of error of +/-2%. “Don’t know/No opinion” responses are not shown.

What you need to know

  • Adults were much less likely to say it’s easy to access mental health services than either primary or emergency care near where they live. They were about as likely to say it’s easy to access long-term care nearby, with roughly half of adults saying it’s easy to access mental health or long-term services and 1 in 5 saying it’s difficult.
  • Earlier this month, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued a 53-page report that warned of a mental health crisis among young people, citing limited access to care as one potential driver. In the survey, 30 percent of adults under 35 said mental health services are difficult to access near where they live, the highest level across age groups. Just 12 percent of adults 65 or older, for example, said the same.
  • Lack of access to mental health services can carry significant costs for the health care system overall. Recent research from Evernorth, a subsidiary of Cigna Corp., found that outpatient behavioral health treatment is tied to fewer hospitalizations and emergency room visits, cutting costs by up to $3,109 per person over two years.
1 in 3 Adults Say It’s Easier to Get Mental Health Care Today Than It Was Five Years Ago

U.S. adults were asked whether it’s gotten easier or harder in the past five years to access mental health care near where they live

Poll conducted Dec. 2-6, 2021, among 2,200 U.S. adults, with a margin of error of +/-2%. Totals may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

What you need to know

  • Most adults said the mental health care landscape nearby has either gotten easier (33 percent) or remained the same (31 percent) during the past five years. Meanwhile, 14 percent of adults said it was easier five years ago to access local mental health services.
  • There were gaps, with adults in higher-income households more likely than those earning under $50,000 to say access to mental health care has gotten easier in the past five years. Similarly, 38 percent of urban adults said access has gotten easier, compared with 26 percent of those in rural areas.
  • Even so, these services are out of reach for many. Mental Health America, a national nonprofit, estimates that more than half of all adults with a mental illness, equaling roughly 27 million people, are going untreated.

The survey was conducted Dec. 2-6, 2021, among 2,200 U.S. adults, with a margin of error of 2 percentage points.

Morning Consult