Trends in negative emotions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States

OBJECTIVES: This study aimed to identify trends in the prevalence of negative emotions in the United States throughout the COVID-19 pandemic between March 2020 and November 2021.

STUDY DESIGN: This was a descriptive, repeated cross-sectional analysis of nationally representative survey data.

METHODS: Data originated from Gallup’s COVID-19 web survey, encompassing 156,684 observations. Prevalence estimates for self-reported prior-day experience of sadness, worry, stress, anger, loneliness, depression, and anxiety were computed, plotted using descriptive trend graphs, and compared with 2019 estimates from the Gallup World Poll. Differences between estimates were evaluated by inspecting confidence intervals.

RESULTS: Stress and worry were the most commonly experienced negative emotions between March 2020 and November 2021; worry and anger were significantly more prevalent than prepandemic. The prevalence of sadness, worry, stress, and anger fluctuated considerably over time and declined steadily to prepandemic levels by mid-2021. Distinctive spikes in the prevalence of several negative emotions, especially sadness and anger, were observed following the murder of George Floyd.

CONCLUSIONS: Several negative emotions exhibited excess prevalence during the pandemic, especially in spring/summer 2020. Despite recent reductions to prepandemic levels, continued monitoring is necessary to inform policies and interventions to promote population well-being.

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Full citation:
Hagen D, Lai AY, Goldmann E (2022).
Trends in negative emotions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States
Public Health, 212, 4-6. doi: 10.1016/j.puhe.2022.08.009. PMCID: PMC9395287.