Deploying Surveys and HR Analytics to Understand Mental Health During COVID-19

Human resource professionals wear many hats. From training and compensation to diversity and inclusion, the challenges and demands on HR departments are ever expanding. But how can you leverage data and analytics to solve these challenges? This blog post uses publicly available survey data to analyze mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On April 23, 2020, the United States Census Bureau launched the Household Pulse Survey to measure household experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Census Bureau conducted the survey over 12 weeks.1 Several questions on the survey specifically addressed mental health. The survey asked: 


In Figure 1A below, we analyze how the Census survey results, regarding feeling down, depressed, or hopeless, changed from the Week 1 to Week 12 of the survey.4 People reported being depressed “not at all” more frequently in Week 1 of the survey than in Week 12. As a result, rates of feeling depressed on “several days,” “more than half the days,” and “nearly every day” have increased. In other words, more people reported feeling depressed more frequently in mid-July than they did in late April and early May.

Similarly, in Figure 1B below, we analyze how survey results, regarding feeling nervous, anxious, or on edge, changed from Week 1 of the survey to Week 12. Again, more people reported feeling anxiety more frequently in mid-July than they did in late April and early May.

Figure 1A

Figure 1B

The Household Pulse Survey also allows us to analyze if certain populations report feeling depressed or anxious more frequently than others. For example, focusing in on people who feel down, depressed, or hopeless “nearly every day,” we find that a larger percentage of women than men fall into this category, although the gap has been closing over the course of the survey. Similarly, a larger percentage of women reported feeling nervous, anxious, or on edge “nearly every day” than men.

Figure 2A

Figure 2B

Finally, splitting the data by age group reveals that a larger percentage of people ages 18-29 reported feeling down, depressed, or hopeless “nearly every day” than older populations. A larger percentage of that age group also reported feeling nervous, anxious, or on edge “nearly every day” than older populations.  

Figure 3A

Figure 3B


While data alone is not enough to solve problems related to mental health, in this case, it helps us better understand mental health experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.

How can employers similarly leverage data to provide help for mental health?

Poor mental health can lead to lower productivity and increased absenteeism,5 but proactive surveys, employee responses, and HR analytics can help solve these challenges.

Employee surveys are a useful way to measure workforce well-being—gaining insight into views on work-life balance, stress levels, burnout, and engagement. As shown in the analysis above, survey data can help identify areas where your employees may need additional support and resources during the pandemic.

Survey data is not only useful in evaluating the need for additional resources but can also be used to determine which resources will be most effective for employees. Would employees benefit from free counseling sessions? More frequent check-ins with managers and interactions with peers? Well-established boundaries to improve work-life balance?

The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented public health and economic crisis that is impacting our communities and workplaces. Data is more important now than ever for understanding this impact and informing HR decision making.

For more information on the Household Pulse Survey, visit the Census Bureau website at:


Read about our recent work designing surveys and conducting analysis on the state of laboratory COVID testing throughout the US

Watch our on-demand webinar about using HR Analytics to help guide your path forward during uncertain times


1. Week 1 of the survey covers April 23-May 5. All subsequent weeks cover a 5-day span starting on Thursday and ending on Tuesday.



4. The Census Bureau uses the survey results and weights to produce weekly estimates for the total population 18 years and older.




Karuna Batcha


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