Stressful environments during COVID-19 risk increased substance abuse and domestic violence

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

In a Recovery Village survey (LaNeve, 2020), participants selected reasons why they were prompted to use substances within the last month. Survey participants’ responses included they were trying to cope with stress (53%), trying to relieve boredom (39%), and trying to cope with mental health symptoms like anxiety and depression (32%). In the survey report LaNeve (2020) suggests: “The survey results indicate that many people could be turning to drugs and alcohol to cope with pressures created by coronavirus…. co-occurring mental health disorders are very common in those with a substance use disorder.”

Emphasizing how the conditions of COVID-19 could lead to dangerous environments for at-risk victims, The Hotline writes in their COVID-19 Special Report (2020): “Any external factors that add stress, isolation, and financial strain can create circumstances where a survivor’s safety is further compromised. The COVID-19 pandemic has elements of all three of these external factors. Even more concerning, shelter-in-place orders meant that many would be in closer and more frequent proximity to their abusers.”

Anxiety and depression related to job loss and income insecurity

The number of jobless claims has skyrocketed since the first COVID-19 U.S. diagnosis, leading to increased stress for countless Americans. In a recent KFF poll, of those who have lost their job or income, spouses included, over half (58%) reported worry or stress related to the coronavirus has had a negative impact on their mental health (Panchal et al., 2020): 

Reflecting on the effects of necessary public health decisions that contributed to increases of unemployment claims and greater isolation, Panchal et al. (2020) suggests: “As the pandemic wears on, ongoing and necessary public health measures expose many people to experiencing situations linked to poor mental health outcomes, such as isolation and job loss.”


LaNeve, N. (2020). Drug and alcohol use increase during COVID-19. The Recovery Village. Retrieved from:
Panchal, N., Kamal, R., Orgera, K., Cox, C., Garfield, R., Hamel, L., Muñana, C., Chidambaram, P. (2020). The implications of COVID-19 for mental health and substance use. Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). Retrieved from:

This blog post continues our series of excerpts from the HealthStream article, As COVID-19 Spreads, So Does Its Impact on Mental Health. Future excerpts will include:


  • Symptoms Pointing to a Mental Health Crisis
  • Underlying Issues Exacerbating Mental Health During Covid-19
  • Stress on Healthcare Workers May Lead to Burnout and Poor Mental Health in an Already Fragile Field
  • Anticipating a Surge of Mental Health Challenges alongside Pandemic Aftermath

Download the full article about the impact of Covid-19 on mental health here.

The Mental Health Imperative

As public understanding of mental health issues and disorders grows, the demand for behavioral health services will continue to increase. This growing market must prepare to serve the more than 40 million Americans (one in five) with a mental health condition—56 percent of them currently do not receive treatment. At HealthStream, we understand that behavioral health services and the required competencies may look a little different from other providers. That’s why some of the largest behavioral health organizations in the country have partnered with HealthStream to mitigate risk, improve staff competence, and increase overall efficiency. Explore our solutions for mental health staff and professionals.

PLEASE NOTE: The information in the article excerpted here was considered current at the time of its publishing. However, the COVID-19 pandemic is an ever-evolving disaster due to new findings, data, and availability of resources. Please refer to the CDC website for the latest detailed information when you need it.