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The COVID-19 Impacts on Stress and Decision-making

There is not a day that goes by that we do not hear of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While it’s common to receive a constant flood of information about the pandemic, what is less commonly known is how the pandemic affects us on a daily.

In August of this year, the American Psychological Association (APA) commissioned their annual Stress in America study to understand just this. Leveraging a sample of over 3,000 United States adults, the APA had a number of interesting findings about the state of the pandemic on our lives. The major findings are highlighted below: 

  • Stress levels remain higher than pre-pandemic levels. Pre-pandemic, stress levels ranged from 4.8 to 5.0. However, during the pandemic, stress levels have held steady at 5.0. The largest sources of stress included work (66%), money (61%), the economy (59%), family responsibilities (57%), and personal health concerns (52%). 
  • U.S. adults are struggling with daily decisions, especially millennials. For many Americans, the pandemic has prompted a continuous state of risk assessment, which places one in a highly stressful and anxious state. Because of this worrisome state, approximately 1 of 3 adults noted that they struggle to make basic decisions—even those that are most basic such as what to wear. 
  • More dependents and more decisions equate to higher stress. The difficulty in decision-making, of no surprise, is much more difficult for parents. This is because of the nearly continuous changes to work, school, and everyday routines. In addition, the added complexity of managing households with mixed vaccination statuses can also be difficult. 
  • Many are suffering from the impacts of stress. The effect of pandemic stress goes beyond decision-making impacts and may manifest itself in various ways, including but not limited to: headaches (34%), feeling overwhelmed (34%), fatigue (32%), or changes in sleeping habits (32%).
  • Pandemic stress among people of color is elevated. Hispanic and Black adults were less likely to note that they were fairing well with the pandemic. The biggest impact here was with Hispanic adults, who reported the overall highest levels of stress. The researchers suggest that this may be due to the racial and ethnic disparities with the pandemic. 
  • Resilience among populations varies. More than half of U.S. adults (53%) noted that they are struggling with the ups and downs of the pandemic. What’s more, 1 in 4 adults are regarded as having low resilience. Generally speaking, these low-resilience adults were those described as being younger, parents, and those with an annual household income of less than $50K.

How can you better manage this pandemic stress? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer some helpful tips:

  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media.
  • Take care of your body by engaging in healthy activities such as regular exercise, meditation, and healthy eating.
  • Connect with others by sharing your concerns and feelings. 



ABA. (2021). Stress and decision-making during the pandemic. American Psychological Association. 

CDC (2021). Coping with Stress. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.