Highmark Health behavioral health survey finds 64% of of 8,600 people in western Pennsylvania surveyed reported they were struggling in life; with 75% reporting their stress levels could better; about 57% rated their stress levels poorly

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PITTSBURGH , December 12, 2023 (press release) –

Highmark Health asked western Pennsylvanians "How's it going?" in a questionnaire to gauge sentiment around behavioral health, and nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of respondents indicated they were struggling in some way, with stress levels noted as the largest concern.

With grant funding from the Richard King Mellon Foundation designed to help destigmatize behavioral health treatment, 8,600 western Pennsylvanians were asked to rate from 1 to 5 the quality of their sleep, diet, relationships, stress levels, coping strategies, and current feelings. A score of 5 indicated the best possible score and a score of 1 indicated these behavioral health concerns were at their worst levels; answers were provided over the course of 2023.

The largest concern among respondents was stress:

  • Three out of every four (75 percent) surveyed said their stress levels could be better, rating them at a 3 or below.
  • More than half (57 percent) rated their stress levels poorly with a 2 or below.
  • One in three (31 percent) of those surveyed said their stress levels were at their worst — rating it a 1.

Following stress, sleep was another factor respondents marked as an area of deficit, with 45 percent reporting poor sleep at a 2 or below.

"All of these things can be correlated — coping and eating habits, stress and sleep, relationships and mood all coincide," said Aimee Girod, PhD, vice president, clinical strategy and performance, Highmark Health. "The holiday season is typically a difficult time to balance it all. We encourage our members and patients to view their health holistically, being mindful of how physical and social health play a role in their mental health."

A more encouraging finding, 64 percent of those surveyed reported their relationships — whether in romantic partnerships, friendships, family, or otherwise — to be going in a positive direction, The question "How's it going in your relationships?" received the highest score on average.

"Holidays can be tough for those who may have complicated or estranged relationships with family, but if you have close friends and family who are supportive, it's a great time to connect with those who bring you joy, like old friends who are home for the holidays," said Doug Henry, PhD, clinical psychologist and institute vice president, AHN Psychiatry & Behavioral Health Institute. "Consider spending time with those healthy connections to be a form of self-care, and try to lend an ear to those who may be struggling this time of year."

Highmark is offering behavioral health resources on its website, which are free for everyone. By going to Highmark.com and navigating to the "Resources" page, various tools can be found, including:

  • Tips for how to recognize depression, anxiety, and substance use disorder
  • Simple information about treatment options
  • How to help children and adolescents
  • Behavioral health audio resources such as mindful meditations and self-care exercises
  • Suggested phrasing to help friends and loved ones feel supported during tough times, as well as some lines to try to avoid

Highmark also continues to expand access to behavioral health resources for its members. Mental Well-Being powered by Spring Health was announced as a part of the My Highmark member portal in October 2023. It will become available to more than 2 million Highmark members in January 2024.

"Highmark's Mental Well-Being program will increase access to virtual and in-person behavioral health services by 40 percent — across our entire footprint," said Anil Singh, MD, MPH, SVP and executive medical director, population and curated health, Highmark Health. "Our aim is to create easier access and faster availability for these services so our members and patients can receive care earlier and achieve better health outcomes overall."

Those who are in crisis or experiencing suicidal thoughts should call or text 988 for the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.

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