Behavioral Health By The Numbers: Macro Trends Point to Continued Demand, Staffing Shortages, Changing Usage Patterns


A recent study by health care analytics firm Trilliant Health titled “2022 Trends Shaping the Health Economy” reports a continued increase in demand for Behavioral Health services but predicts an ongoing shortage of professionals, and it provides a host of interesting insights related to demographics, geography, payers and other factors for behavioral health and healthcare in general.

Behavioral Health Trends: Demand Up, Supply Constrained, Telehealth Steady

  • Between Q1 2019 and Q2 2022, behavioral health visits were up roughly 17%. In comparison, with COVID-19-related visits omitted, all other healthcare encounters were down by 6.2% over the same period.
  • The rise in behavioral health visits was not equal across all geographies. Visit volumes increased in 69.5 percent of metropolitan statistical areas, and decreased in 30.5 percent of areas.
  • Demand for behavioral health services increased much more for females (+26.2%) and adults ages 18-64 (+25.4%) than males and those in other age groups.
  • Behavioral health visit volumes for those with commercial insurance increased by far the most, 24.2%, compared to an increase of 11.8% for those with Medicaid and a 1.5% decrease for those with Medicare.
  • Within a few years, the U.S. will experience a shortage of between 14,280 and 31,109 psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers, based on estimates from the Association of American Medical Colleges
  • While the use of telehealth for physical healthcare has declined since the Pandemic peak, it has remained steady for behavioral health visits, which now account for almost 60% of all telehealth visits. 
  • Nationally in 2022, 27.2% of states’ budget expenditures went towards Medicaid, a significant increase in the past decade.
  • Since the onset of the Pandemic, prescribing of antidepressants and antianxiety medications increased, rising from 17.3% of the volume of select common prescription drug categories in 2019 to 18.9% in 2021.

General Healthcare Trends: Big Demographic, Competitive Moves Altering Landscape

  • Longer term, the aging US population will result in an increase in individuals insured by Medicare and a corresponding decrease in those insured by commercial payers and Medicaid.
  • Geographically, Americans in general, and those aged 45-64 in particular, are moving to the Sunbelt, which will increase demand for services in that region.
  • The percentage of Americans with commercial insurance (66%) dipped slightly from 2020 to 2021 but rose for those with public insurance, including Medicaid (18.9%).
  • The provider landscape is changing dramatically, with new tech-enabled companies entering the market and big-name retailers and insurers expanding services, such as the recent partnership between Walmart and UnitedHealth Group to provide healthcare services in Walmart Health clinics starting with the fast-growing Sunbelt markets of Florida and Georgia.

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