Distressed Democrats and relaxed Republicans? Partisanship and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic

PLoS One. 2022 Apr 21;17(4):e0266562. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0266562. eCollection 2022.


The COVID-19 pandemic was a potent stressor, yielding unprecedented levels of mental distress. However, public health responses and personal reactions to the pandemic were politically polarized, with Democrats highlighting and Republicans downplaying its severity. Did Republicans subsequently experience as much mental distress as Democrats during the COVID-19 pandemic? This study examines partisan patterns in mental health outcomes at three time points throughout the pandemic. Results demonstrate a clear partisan distress gap, with Democrats consistently reporting worse mental health than Republicans. Trend data suggest that the 2020 pandemic patterns are a continuation and exacerbation of an existing partisan distress gap. Consideration of race, however, demonstrates a widening partisan distress gap, specific to white Americans. Among white Americans, therefore, Democrats experienced a substantially greater increase in distress in response to the pandemic than Republicans.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Pandemics
  • Politics
  • Public Health
  • United States / epidemiology

Grants and funding

The authors received no specific funding for this work.