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Millions of Americans have lost years of time to poor mental health

Have you ever felt like your mental health has kept you from fully living your life? Struggling with depression or anxiety can make it seem like time itself slows down, trapping you in a cycle of worry and fogginess.

According to a new nationwide survey, called the GeneSight Mental Health Monitor, you’re not alone. A staggering amount of Americans report losing precious time due to poor mental health.

Poor mental health and lost time

The survey results paint a devastating picture of the toll mental illness takes. The fact that 44% of Americans believe they’ve lost significant time due to poor mental health highlights the widespread reach of this issue.

For those already diagnosed with anxiety and/or depression, the situation worsens dramatically – nearly 80% report the same heartbreaking sense of lost time.

It’s even more distressing to consider that half of individuals battling anxiety and/or depression feel they’ve lost years of their life to these challenges. The fact that 12% report losing entire decades emphasizes the profound and far-reaching consequences of mental health struggles.

These are not just numbers; they represent stolen moments, missed experiences, and the immense weight of mental illness over a lifetime.

What does losing time to mental health look like?

The concept of “lost time” might seem abstract, but the consequences are painfully real. For those struggling with mental health, this translates into a devastating array of missed experiences:

Missed milestones

Over half of individuals with anxiety and/or depression report the heartbreak of missing out on major life events. These are moments meant for celebration – weddings, graduations, the birth of children – yet mental health struggles cast a dark shadow over what should be joyous occasions.

Special moments

It’s not just about absence. Even when physically present at important gatherings, a staggering 71% of those surveyed say that mental health prevents them from truly being there. Imagine being surrounded by loved ones yet feeling disconnected, unable to fully participate in the shared experience.

Mental health’s stolen joyful times

Nearly 8 in 10 people admit that within the past year alone, their mental health has robbed them of simple pleasures. This could mean struggling to find enjoyment in hobbies, outings with friends, or even moments of everyday relaxation.

“For a patient who is struggling, time ticks a lot slower than it does for the rest of us,” said Debbie Thomas, a psychiatric nurse practitioner in Louisville, Kentucky. “One of my patients told me that, when they woke up in the morning, they counted how many hours before they could go back to bed. That’s pretty telling when someone is in the depths of depression and anxiety to that degree.”  

Frustration and regret of lost time to mental health

The pain of missing out on life due to mental health issues goes far deeper than the events themselves. The aftermath holds its own set of agonizing emotions:


For 60%, depressive episodes leave them feeling utterly depleted, as if every ounce of energy has been wrung out of them. This isn’t just tiredness; it’s a profound physical and emotional drain.


Half of respondents describe the end of a down period as disorienting – like waking from a confusing, hazy fog. This speaks to the distorting effect mental illness has on one’s perception of reality and sense of self.


A significant 47% struggle with deep sadness and frustration over the missed opportunities. This lingering disappointment underscores the realization that while time moves forward, the moments lost to mental health struggles can never be recovered.

“Patients who have lost time due to depressive episodes or periods of anxiety often feel a sense of loss, which further complicates their mental health situation,” said Sharon Philbin, an advanced practice registered nurse in Pawtucket, Rhode Island,. “Many of my patients say they are thankful they feel better, but they worry that it will happen again.”

Prolonged treatment time of mental health

Sadly, one out of every three respondents with anxiety and/or depression feels that they’ve missed out on things due to ineffective mental health treatments. Navigating the world of psychiatric medication can be tough.

The typical approach often involves months or even years of trial and error as doctors and patients struggle to find the right medication and dosage.

Prioritize your mental health with time

Taking care of your mental health is essential for both your well-being and your ability to lead a fulfilling life. Here are strategies to help manage and improve your mental health:

Stay active

Physical activity isn’t just good for the body; it also has a profound impact on our mental health. Exercise releases endorphins, chemicals in your brain that act as natural painkillers and mood elevators. It also helps regulate sleep, which can greatly improve mood and decrease stress. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week.

Eat well

Nutrition plays a crucial role in brain health. Eating a diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals supports brain function and can ward off anxiety and depression. Focus on incorporating plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains into your diet. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish like salmon, have been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Get enough sleep

Sleep and mental health are closely connected. Lack of sleep can exacerbate stress, anxiety, and depression. Try to maintain a regular sleep schedule—going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. Ensure your bedroom is conducive to sleep: quiet, dark, and cool, and free from screens and distractions.

Connect with others

Social interaction is a fundamental human need that helps ward off loneliness and depression. Maintain strong relationships with friends and family who can provide support and understanding. Activities like joining clubs or groups, volunteering, or attending community events can also provide valuable social interaction.

Manage stress

Chronic stress is detrimental to mental health. Managing stress through mindfulness, meditation, yoga, or deep-breathing exercises can significantly reduce your anxiety and improve your emotional well-being. Regular practice can help you stay calm and better equipped to handle life’s challenges.

Avoid Alcohol and drugs

While you might feel that alcohol or drugs lessen stress in the short term, they often worsen symptoms of anxiety and depression in the long run. If you’re struggling with substance use, seek professional help to develop healthier coping mechanisms.

Set goals and priorities

Determine what you want to achieve personally and professionally and set realistic goals to help guide you. Setting and achieving goals provides a sense of purpose and control, which can greatly improve your mental health.

Take breaks

In times of stress, taking a step back to simply breathe and relax can be incredibly helpful. Whether it’s stepping outside, taking a day off to unwind, or simply setting aside time for hobbies you enjoy, breaks can significantly restore your mental energy.

Practice gratitude

Recognizing and appreciating the positives in your life can shift your mindset from one of scarcity to one of abundance, which can decrease anxiety and boost your mood. Consider keeping a gratitude journal, where you regularly write down things you’re grateful for, to help maintain a positive frame of mind.

Get help for mental health time loss

There’s no substitute for professional help when it comes to treating mental illness. A mental health professional can provide a diagnosis, offer treatment, and help you develop strategies to cope with symptoms. Don’t hesitate to seek help if you feel overwhelmed or unable to cope.

  • Talk to your doctor: Discuss your symptoms and discuss medication options. Ask about whether genetic testing to diagnose mental health issues might be right for you.
  • Seek therapy: A qualified therapist can offer valuable guidance, coping strategies, and support on your mental health journey.
  • Support resources: Organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offer education, support groups, and helplines.

The GeneSight Mental Health Monitor is a survey conducted by ACUPOLL Precision Research, Inc This study was commissioned by Myriad Genetics, a leader in genetic testing and precision medicine. Their GeneSight Psychotropic test offers insights into how an individual’s genes may affect their response to various mental health medications.


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