Despite an Increase in Mental Health Visits During the Pandemic, New Research Shows Significant Unmet Demand

Data released by athenahealth highlights gender and generational differences in individual approaches to mental healthcare during the pandemic and COVID-19's impact on children’s mental health

WATERTOWN, Mass.--()--athenahealth, Inc., a leading provider of network-enabled software and services for medical groups and health systems nationwide, today announced results from both a brand-new study leveraging proprietary athenahealth network data and a survey panel of 1,000 patients, illustrating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on patients’ interactions with mental health treatment in America. The research reveals that there is a growing demand for mental health services and visits are on the rise, yet many adults are not seeking out the care they want and/or need. athenahealth network data shows that visits among new patients made up a larger portion of total mental health visits in July 2020, compared to July 2019 – a 27% increase. However, despite the increase, a survey of over 1,000 patients commissioned by athenahealth found that 42% of adults currently want to see a mental health professional but have not taken action to do so.

In addition, the commissioned survey revealed age and gender differences in the use of mental healthcare. According to the survey, millennials, defined as Americans born between 1981-1996, were the most likely of all age groups to say they “don’t currently see a mental health professional, but want to” (56%). Millennials were also the most likely to cite specific factors that held them back from seeing a professional (67%), which included cost (22%), lack of time (17%), and not knowing what to ask for help with (12%). Additionally, nearly one-quarter (24%) of survey respondents reported feeling judgement from family members when talking about mental health—with Gen Z, defined as Americans born between 1997-2012, at 40% followed by millennials at 32%.

Regarding children’s mental health visits and needs during the pandemic, data from the athenahealth network shows that Gen Alpha, defined as Americans born 2013-present, experienced the sharpest increase in mental health visits per patient (43%) in the first year of the pandemic. Moreover, 39% of parents surveyed reported that the pandemic affected their children’s mental health, citing virtual education and the inability to spend time with friends as reasons for mental health struggles. Additionally, athenahealth network data shows that prescriptions per patient for ADHD, which is most commonly diagnosed in young children, increased one year after the start of the pandemic and have been on the rise since.

“While mental health has historically held its own stigma, the challenges of the past several years have helped break down some of the barriers and allowed people to talk more openly about their mental wellbeing and seek out treatment,” said Jessica Sweeney-Platt, vice president of research and editorial strategy at athenahealth. “Yet people are still struggling to get the care they want and need. Social isolation and the pandemic’s disruption to daily life has had a profound effect on people of all ages. Moving forward, it is essential that as an industry we continue to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health, provide education, and make mental healthcare affordable and accessible.”

When asked what would “improve their ability to care for their mental health,” survey respondents cited having more time to focus on themselves, as well as more education, acceptance, and support. Baby Boomers, defined as Americans born between 1946-1964, were the most likely of all age groups to report that having time to themselves would help them care for their mental health (37%), followed closely by Generation X, defined as Americans born between 1965-1980, at 35%.

“Generation X and even some Baby Boomer caregivers fall into what is known as the ‘sandwich generation,’” said Sweeney-Platt. “These Americans are caring for themselves, their children, and aging relatives - which might explain why these two demographic groups said that having more time to themselves would improve their ability to care for their mental health. The pandemic has intensified these responsibilities and therefore, it is more important than ever for caregivers to prioritize their wellbeing while supporting others.”

Overall, 38% of survey respondents reported seeing a mental health professional during the pandemic. Men were more likely (41%) than women (36%) to see a mental health professional during the pandemic. Although 19% of women compared to 16% of men re-engaged in past treatment during the pandemic, 25% of men compared to 17% of women saw a mental health professional for the first time during the pandemic.

To read more about the study, please visit here.


The athenahealth network data consists of 992,000 de-identified patients who were active on a mental health provider’s panel between January 2019 and February 2022. The online survey, which was completed by 1,000 U.S. adults, was commissioned by athenahealth and fielded by Dynata, a global market research firm, in April 2022.

About athenahealth, Inc.

athenahealth creates innovative healthcare technology that connects clinicians, patients, payers, and partners in differentiated ways. Our electronic health records, revenue cycle management, and patient engagement tools allow anytime, anywhere access, driving better financial outcomes for our customers and enabling our provider customers to deliver better quality care. In everything we do, we’re inspired by our vision to create a thriving ecosystem that delivers accessible, high-quality, and sustainable healthcare for all. For more information, please visit


Nikki D'Addario

Release Summary

Data highlights differences in individual approaches to mental healthcare during the pandemic and COVID-19's impact on children’s mental health


Nikki D'Addario