A public health poll of hundreds of Garden State adults shows the reach of a number of pressing issues that face every New Jersey community.

In the Stockton University Poll released on Friday, 58% of respondents reported that they have, or someone close to them has, experienced mental health issues. Of that group, 68% said that the issues have worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic that first took hold of New Jersey in March 2020.

"The public is confirming what experts have been saying about the pandemic, that mental health has taken a beating as we try to manage the coronavirus," said John Froonjian, director of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton. "The pandemic has increased stress levels on multiple fronts: economic, social, employment, health care, schooling, loss of loved ones. It all takes a toll."

Nearly four in 10 New Jerseyans reported that the opioid crisis has either affected themself or someone they know personally. More than a third characterize drug addiction as a big problem in their community. Seventeen percent said it's not a problem at all where they live.

Folks in South Jersey were most likely (46%) to classify addiction as a big problem where they live. The rate was 30% in the middle of the state and 34% in the north.

"It's not that surprising because there are a number of health issues that are more pronounced in South Jersey," Froonjian said.

A report released in April by the Wisconsin Population Health Institute lists four South Jersey counties — Cumberland, Salem, Camden, and Atlantic — as the least healthy in the Garden State.

Respondents in South Jersey were also more likely (32%) to characterize homelessness as a big problem in their communities. Twenty-four percent of North Jersey residents and 16% of Central Jersey residents said the same.

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com

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