According to the Mental Health Index: U.S. Worker Edition, published on February 19, 2021, there’s positive news on the state of workers’ mental health for the first time in the past year. Powered by Total Brain—a mental health and brain performance self-monitoring and self-care platform—the index shows vast improvements but still cause for concern. Stress, negativity and general anxiety risks have taken a positive turn at the beginning of 2021. Although we’re not out of the woods, experts say, there’s reason for cautious optimism. By the end of January, employees’ stress and risk of general anxiety dropped down to pre-pandemic levels. Resilience and social connectivity climbed back to positive levels not seen since before February 2020.

Data comparing December 2020 to January 2021 revealed a notable decline in risk of depression (down 30%) and PTSD (down 25%) along with a considerable increase in sustained attention (up 21%). These statistics, while encouraging, belie the mental health crisis that remains. Risk of depression and PTSD and sustained attention levels remain alarmingly worse than before Covid-19:

·       Risk of depression is 71% higher than before Covid-19.

·       Risk of PTSD is 33% higher than before Covid-19.

·       Sustained attention is 27% worse than before Covid-19.

“Perhaps it is the hope and optimism that a new year brings, but at last this month’s Mental Health Index offers us some good news,” said Louis Gagnon, CEO of Total Brain. “Unfortunately, employers and employees are not out of the woods yet. While the numbers are very encouraging, the data tells us that there is still a workplace mental health epidemic that cannot be ignored.” 

The Mental Health Index: U.S. Worker Edition contains data drawn from a weekly randomized sample of 500 working Americans taken from a larger universe of Total Brain users. The Index is not a survey or a poll. Data is culled from neuroscientific brain assessments using standardized digital tasks and questions from the Total Brain platform. Participants include workers from all walks of life and regions, job levels, occupations, industries and types of organizations (public vs. private). The brain assessments used to compile the Mental Health Index were taken weekly from February 3 to January 31, 2021.

The Index is distributed in partnership with the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, One Mind at Work, and the HR Policy Association and its American Health Policy Institute. “The cumulative impact of the Covid environment has been unprecedented on employees and their families,” said Michael Thompson, National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions president and CEO. “The holiday break appears to have played a major role in helping employees to reset and recharge.”

Colleen McHugh, executive vice president of the American Health Policy Institute and strategic advisor for HR Policy Association said, “While this data is encouraging, and there is reason to be more optimistic for the future, America is still facing a major mental health crisis. Large employers hope that this positive trend will endure and that employees continue to take advantage of their ongoing well-being strategies and other employer-sponsored support, such as additional job flexibility, healthy living programs, positive work/life balance initiatives and increased education and employer support around vaccinations.”

“The trauma of the last year will have long-lasting effects on the mental health of not only employees but their families,” said Garen Staglin, Chairman of One Mind at Work. “It is welcome news to see improvements at the start of the new year, but employers must remain focused on incorporating innovative mental health programs with visible leadership involvement to support the well-being of their workforce. One size does not fit all, especially when it comes to brain health.” 

About the National Alliance:The National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions (National Alliance) is the only nonprofit, purchaser-led organization with a national and regional structure dedicated to driving health and healthcare value across the country. Its members represent private and public sector, nonprofit, and Taft-Hartley organizations, and more than 45 million Americans spending over $300 billion annually on healthcare.

About One Mind: One Mind at Work is a leading mental health non-profit that catalyzes comprehensive action across the scale of the brain health crisis, working from science to patients to society. Moving towards its VISION of HEALTHY BRAINS FOR ALL, One Mind is accelerating treatments and cures for mental disorders and providing hope to patients and their families. Launched in 2017, One Mind at Work is a global coalition of employers from diverse sectors who have joined together to transform approaches to mental health and addiction. One Mind at Work now includes more than 60 global employers and 25 research and content partners. The coalition covers more than 7 million people under its Charter.

About HR Policy Association: HR Policy Associationis the lead organization representing Chief Human Resource Officers at major employers. The Association consists of over 390 of the largest corporations doing business in the United States and globally, and these employers are represented in the organization by their most senior human resource executive. Collectively, their companies employ more than 10 million employees in the United States, over nine percent of the private sector workforce, and 20 million employees worldwide. These senior corporate officers participate in the Association because of their commitment to improving the direction of human resource policy.

About American Health Policy Institute:American Health Policy Instituteis a non-partisan non-profit think tank, started by the HR Policy Foundation that examines the practical implications of health policy changes through the lens of large employers. The Institute examines the challenges employers face in providing health care to their employees and recommends policy solutions to promote the provision of affordable, high-quality, employer-based health care. The Institute serves to provide thought leadership grounded in the practical experience of America’s largest employers. Their mission is to develop impactful strategies to ensure that those purchasing health care are able to not only bend the cost curve, but actually break it, by keeping health care cost inflation in line with general inflation.


  • Bryan Robinson, Ph.D.

    Journalist, psychotherapist, and Author of 40 books.

    Bryan Robinson, Ph.D.

    Bryan Robinson, Ph.D. is a professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, psychotherapist in private practice, and award-winning author of two novels and 40 nonfiction books that have been translated into 15 languages. His latest books are CHAINED TO THE DESK IN A HYBRID WORLD: A GUIDE TO WORK-LIFE BALANCE (New York University Press, 2023)#CHILL: TURN OFF YOUR JOB AND TURN ON YOUR LIFE (William Morrow, 2019), DAILY WRITING RESILIENCE: 365 MEDITATIONS & INSPIRATIONS FOR WRITERS (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2018). He is a regular contributor to, Psychology Today, and Thrive Global. He has appeared on 20/20, Good Morning America, The CBS Early Show, ABC's World News Tonight, NPR’s Marketplace, NBC Nightly News and he hosted the PBS documentary "Overdoing It: How To Slow Down And Take Care Of Yourself." website: