The prices of homes, rent, gas, and food have increased after 2 years of uncertainty amid life during a pandemic. Doctors have noted more stress and mental strain among patients.
“If salaries are not matched to reflect the rising prices of groceries, gas, rent, it becomes more difficult for people with minimum wage to manage their living standards,” Aisha Shariq, MD, a psychiatrist with Texas Tech Health Sciences El Paso, told CBS4.
“That leads to higher rates of depression, anxiety, and even schizophrenia in vulnerable populations,” she said.
U.S. inflation grew to 8.5% in March, rising at the fastest annual pace since December 1981, according to The Wall Street Journal. The consumer price index – a list of goods and services bought by consumers that tracks price changes – increased from its 7.9% annual rate in February, and inflation has been above 6% for 6 months straight.
Americans are noting that stress as well, according to a recent Stress in America poll from the American Psychological Association. Money stress ranked at the highest level since 2015, with the top sources of stress linked to the rise in prices of everyday items such as groceries and energy bills, followed by supply chain issues and global uncertainty.
Inflation concerns can affect people in all socioeconomic categories in the U.S., Shariq noted, though lower-income groups are likely facing the toughest circumstances. That could worsen economic inequality across the nation.
“Growing economic inequality has been a significant and long-term issue,” Lisa Strohschein, PhD, a sociologist at the University of Alberta who studies stress, health, and financial strain, told Live Science.
“And we now live in a world where the pandemic has made some people more wealthy than they already were, but for people who are at the bottom, they have never been more insecure,” she said.
Shariq recommended that people seek professional mental health or medical help if they feel overwhelmed and unable to manage their stress. She noted an increase in people seeking mental health resources locally.
“It can be challenging to manage stress,” she told CBS4. “However, good self-care is really important. It’s a great stress reliever – exercise, developing techniques and coping skills to distract yourself and focus on the positive aspects of life.”