Reported anger, sadness, depression, and anxiety spiked after George Floyd killing

The police killing of George Floyd took an unprecedented toll on the emotional and mental health of Black Americans, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by LDI senior fellow Sharath Guntuku and colleagues at Penn and Stanford.

Masked people in a protest crowd holding signs that read Black Lives Matter, He Could Not Breathe, and Justice 4 George Floyd.
On May 26, 2020, people protested against police violence after the death of George Floyd. (Image: Fibonacci Blue)

While their findings come as no surprise, it highlights how racism “gets under the skin,” affecting the health and outlook of the Black population. It also points out the critical need to increase the physical and mental health resources available to Black communities already hit disproportionately hard by the pandemic.

The authors used nationally representative Gallup surveys to assess emotional changes reported in the week after the killing, which was captured on video and prompted widespread protests. They also assessed changes to mental health as reported in the U.S. Census weekly household survey.

Across the U.S. population, feelings of anger and sadness increased dramatically in the week after George Floyd’s death. Roughly 38% said they experienced anger, up more than 50% from the previous four weeks. Sadness increased about a third, with 38% reporting feelings of loss, despair, and grief. This is against the backdrop of elevated levels of anger and sadness in 2020 due to COVID-19.

But for Black Americans, the impact was even greater. Nearly half reported feelings of anger and sadness after Floyd’s death, doubling the levels reported in the prior weeks.

This story is by Janet Weiner. Read more at Penn LDI.