Mental Health Awareness month: 4 mental health trends to watch in 2023
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By Ethan Popowitz
In a world that often moves at a relentless pace, it is all too easy to overlook the importance of tending to our mental health.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), about 1 in 5 American adults experience mental illness every year, and less than half of them receive treatment. For some people, getting treatment may not be reasonable or possible, as 55% of U.S. counties lack even a single practicing psychiatrist.
Fortunately, schools, workplaces, and the government are recognizing the growing importance of mental health and are taking steps to change the negative stigmas surrounding its discussion.
So, in recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, let’s cover some of the more recent trends in mental and behavioral healthcare.
The top 10 mental health diagnoses of 2022
Definitive Healthcare tracks millions of mental health diagnoses at hospitals, physician groups, clinics, and other facilities. Using data from the Atlas All-Payor Claims dataset, we’ve compiled a list of the most common mental health diagnoses given across all facility types in 2022.
|Rank||Diagnosis code||Description||% of Total mental health diagnoses in 2022|
|1||F411||Generalized anxiety disorder||8.6%|
|2||F419||Anxiety disorder, unspecified||7.5%|
|3||F1120||Opioid dependence, uncomplicated||7.4%|
|4||F331||Major depressive disorder, recurrent, moderate||3.7%|
|6||F4310||Post-traumatic stress disorder, unspecified||2.8%|
|8||F17210||Nicotine dependence, cigarettes, uncomplicated||2.6%|
|9||F329||Major depressive disorder, single episode, unspecified||2.3%|
|10||F902||Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, combined type||2.2%|
Fig. 1 Analysis of mental health diagnosis data from Definitive Healthcare’s Atlas All-Payor Claims dataset for the calendar year 2022.
Generalized anxiety disorder (ICD-10 code F411) was the most common mental health diagnosis given in 2022, comprising 8.6% of total diagnoses. Also called GAD, this condition is characterized by a sense of excessive worry about everyday issues and situations. People with GAD may also have trouble concentrating or sleeping, have increased muscle tension, be more irritable, or experience other symptoms.
According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), anxiety disorders affect nearly 30% of adults at some point in their lives. Yet in spite of how common the condition is—and how treatable anxiety can be—only 36.9% of people suffering from anxiety receive treatment. So, why do so many people choose to suffer in silence?
The stigma that is associated with having a mental illness remains one of the most common reasons why people with anxiety disorders (and other conditions) reject treatment. A review of studies on stigmas showed that despite awareness campaigns and increased funding for mental healthcare, people are wary of treatment because of a fear of being treated differently at work or school, or around friends and family.
Anxiety disorders are also deeply intertwined with depression, which was the fourth most common mental health diagnosis in 2022. Mental health specialists say that one condition can easily trigger the other, with anxiety often preceding depression. In fact, nearly half of the people who live with major depressive disorder (ICD-10 code F331) also suffer from severe and persistent anxiety.
One new addition to the list of most common mental health diagnoses of 2022 is opioid dependence (ICD-10 code F1120). As the third most common mental health-related diagnosis of last year, it’s a clear indication that opioid addiction and abuse remain a difficult problem for the U.S. to solve. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, “fentanyl and opioids are fueling the worst drug crisis in the history of the U.S.” Studies report that disruptions caused by COVID-19 like disruptions to drug supply chains, shifts in how patients are treated, and social distancing mandates likely contributed to higher rates of drug use and overdose.
For more information on the importance of mental health, and why it deserves the same attention as our physical wellbeing, listen to “Brush your brain: Rethinking mental health with Cara McNulty of CVS Health.”
Employee mental health is becoming a top priority
Between rising inflation, evolving job duties, the housing crisis, tumultuous election seasons, climate change, and a multitude of other reasons, more people are experiencing mental health challenges than ever before.
More people are feeling anxious, burnt out, stressed, and depressed—and all these feelings can have a critical impact on a company’s bottom line.
From an employer's perspective, mental health challenges can hurt retention, decrease productivity, and reduce job performance. According to the APA, employees with unresolved depression experience a 35% reduction in productivity, contributing to a loss of $210.5 billion a year in medical costs, absenteeism, and lower work output.
Forward-thinking workplaces are recognizing the importance of investing in the mental health and wellbeing of their employees. Leaders have found addressing the following areas has had profound impacts on the mental health of their employees:
- Mental health benefits. Many employers found success during the pandemic by creating robust employee assistance programs (EAPs), which included resources for in-person and online counseling, app-based solutions for sleep, meditation, relaxation, and mental health, workshops and webinars, onsite yoga, and more.
- Diversity of all kinds. What makes us different from one another is a source of strength for companies. Businesses can support diversity, equity, and inclusion by building cultures that champion openness, vulnerability, and respect. In addition, creating a work environment that is psychologically safe gives neurodiverse individuals the opportunity to thrive.
- Substance use disorders (SUD). The National Safety Council reports that 1 in 12 employees are dealing with a substance use disorder. Our own data supports how widespread and common SUD is, as opioid dependence and nicotine dependence ranked third and eighth on our list of the most common mental health diagnoses of 2022. The NSC suggests that employers combat the prevalence of SUD in the workplace by enacting clear and strong drug-free workplace policies, training supervisors and employees to spot early warning signs of drug misuse, and ensuring evidence-based treatments are covered by employer healthcare plans.
- Electronic monitoring programs. Working in environments where employees are electronically monitored is associated with a variety of mental health concerns. 60% of employees who participated in the APA’s Work & Wellbeing Survey reported their employer monitors them, making them feel stressed or tense during the workday. In addition, 23% of participants who said they were monitored consider their work experience to be toxic, negatively impacting how they feel about the future of their job and the industry they work in.
Telehealth remains a favored platform for mental health
Regular readers of our blog know we’ve covered the impact telehealth has had on the healthcare industry in great detail. Even though the benefits of telehealth were championed by healthcare providers for years before the pandemic, it was COVID-19 that triggered explosive growth and adoption.
And by following the data in the three years since the pandemic began, it’s clear that telehealth has emerged as an ideal platform for mental health treatment—even if mental health-related telehealth claims appear to be on a slight decline. See the latest data below.
Mental health-related telehealth claims from 2019 to 2022
From the graph above, we can track the rapid rise and gradual fall of telehealth claims as a percentage of total mental health claims from 2019 – 2022.
Like most healthcare specialties prior to the pandemic, mental healthcare delivered by telehealth was extremely low, with telehealth claims averaging about 2% of total mental health claims in 2019. It wasn’t until March and April 2020 that telehealth usage skyrocketed, comprising 18.7% and 55.7% of all mental health claims for those respective months.
Telehealth is a highly effective avenue for mental health treatment, offering numerous advantages for both patients and providers. Here are just a few key reasons:
- Accessibility and convenience. Telehealth works to break down geographic barriers and make mental health services more accessible to a broader population of patients. This flexibility is particularly beneficial for people who live in rural or underserved areas, who have long struggled to access high-quality care. Additionally, telehealth allows individuals with mobility limitations, transportation challenges, or demanding schedules to receive support from anywhere with a phone signal or internet connection.
- Increased privacy. As mentioned earlier, seeking mental health treatment in traditional in-person settings can be daunting due to concerns about stigma. Telehealth offers a level of confidentiality, creating a safe space where individuals feel more comfortable sharing their concerns and seeking help. This increased privacy can be particularly beneficial for those dealing with sensitive topics or social anxiety, as it allows for a sense of control and autonomy.
- Continuity of care. Telehealth facilitates the continuity of care, ensuring that individuals can maintain their therapeutic relationship with their mental health provider even when faced with disruptions such as travel, relocation, or unforeseen circumstances. By eliminating the need to find a new provider, individuals can continue their treatment seamlessly, building on the progress they have made and avoiding potential setbacks.
By the end of 2022, it’s clear that the amount of mental health-related telehealth claims has slightly declined. Telehealth isn’t going anywhere, mind you, but as more patients try the technology, it’s likely they’ve decided whether it is their preferred way to engage with their doctor. And now that the WHO has declared that COVID-19 is no longer a global health emergency, it’s likely that we’ll see more people choose to visit their doctor in person.
Will AI be a blessing or a curse for mental healthcare?
Artificial intelligence is propelling some of the most exciting advancements in healthcare. From accelerating drug development and personalizing treatments to streamlining administrative tasks and elevating the doctor’s office experience, the potential surrounding AI is enormous.
AI in healthcare is not a new concept at all. Healthcare providers have used AI to help lower readmission rates, analyze data from electronic medical records, support medical imaging analysis, and more. That being said, the explosive popularity of natural language processing tools like ChatGPT has intensified the conversation around the applications of AI, particularly around mental healthcare.
Using AI to improve mental healthcare offers several potential benefits but also presents considerable challenges and concerns. Some of the pros of integrating AI into mental healthcare include:
- Enhanced efficiency. AI-driven tools can automate routine tasks, such as appointment scheduling and administrative work, freeing up clinicians' time to focus more on direct patient care, and reducing lengthy waiting times for patients.
- Personalized treatment. Machine learning algorithms (a subset of AI) can analyze vast amounts of patient data and identify patterns that may not be easily recognizable to human clinicians. This can enable personalized treatment approaches, tailoring interventions to individual needs and optimizing therapeutic outcomes.
- Opportunities for improved training. Through natural language processing and chatbot functionality, an AI platform could be used to simulate conversations, allowing medical students to experience realistic scenarios before going into the field. The Trevor Project, a nonprofit organization focused on suicide prevention, did just that in 2021. They created an AI model that simulated conversations with LGBTQ youths in crisis. The Trevor Project used this tool to improve its training program, make the training process more flexible, and increase the number of trained counselors.
- Conducting self-assessment and therapy. AI-powered virtual therapists are growing in popularity. They offer advice, track the user’s responses, evaluate the progression and severity of a mental illness, and help cope with its symptoms — either independently or with the help of a certified psychiatrist waiting on the other end of the virtual line.
However, the use of AI has also given rise to a number of perils and concerns that potentially outweigh the technology’s promise. And in some cases, using AI could even be dangerous. Below, I’ll cover some of the cons associated with using AI to treat mental health conditions. For a more detailed explanation of the problems and risks AI may pose to the broader healthcare industry, read my blog, “ChatGPT: Friend or foe?”
Mental health-related cons of AI include:
- AI may never replace human therapists. Experts and businesses both agree that AI is not designed to intervene in acute crisis situations. Mental health apps like Woebot and Pyx Health, which use AI chatbots to communicate with people who feel lonely or have a mental health condition, repeatedly warn users about the limitations of their services. Even if a chatbot delivers answers in a confident, comprehensible manner, AI has not yet reached a point where it can understand every sort of response that a human might give—and respond appropriately.
- Many mental health apps aren’t FDA approved. There are tens of thousands of mental health apps available in app stores, but the APA estimates that nearly all aren’t FDA approved. This is largely because of relaxed premarket requirements for mobile apps that treat psychiatric conditions during the height of COVID-19. However, this action has given rise to certain mental health apps that are diagnosing patients and prescribing treatments, without it being proven that the app is safe and effective to be used.
- AI can be biased. An AI system is only as effective as the dataset used to train it, meaning there is always the potential to receive a response that is incomplete, not factually true, or skewed due to inherent biases captured within the dataset. Due to how race and gender are sometimes represented in datasets, AI algorithms could make predictions that widen health disparities.
As Mental Health Awareness Month continues, we’re excited to announce that we’re expanding on the capabilities of the Atlas Dataset with the Atlas Behavioral Health Dataset!
Available May 30, the Atlas Behavioral Health Dataset provides intelligence on both inpatient and outpatient facilities providing behavioral health services--including physician groups, hospitals, and assisted living facilities–and network, network parent, and facility location information. You can access the data via Snowflake secure direct data share, or through a custom report created by our professional services team.
Want to dig into the healthcare commercial intelligence featured in this blog? Schedule a free trial today and see how we can help you find answers to your organization’s most pressing questions.