Depression and Anxiety Have Skyrocketed During the Pandemic, Study Finds

The study examined the results of a survey conducted in July, months into lockdown.

The study examined the results of a survey conducted in July, months into lockdown. Shutterstock

 

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Health-care workers, people making less than $60,000 per year and parents with kids at home were particularly at risk for depression, anxiety and psychological distress, the research suggests.

Rates of depression and anxiety have more than doubled in adults across the United States amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to research published last month in the Journal of Public Health.

The study, led by a researcher from New Mexico State University, used an online survey to query nearly 2,000 adults on their mental health status in July. The timing was crucial, researchers said, because questioning participants several months into quarantine gave a better sense of the “mental health impact of sustained isolation and loneliness.”

“While a few studies estimated mental health of Americans early in the pandemic, we conducted our study last summer to estimate the true impact of sustained, long-term lockdowns, isolation and excessive use of technology,” Jagdish Khubchandani, a professor at New Mexico State University and the study’s lead author, said in a statement. “The nature and extent of loneliness and screen-time use, along with the constant news cycle, could have a detrimental impact on the mental health of Americans.” 

According to the results, general rates of depression (39%), anxiety (42%) and psychological distress (39%) were more than twice what they had been before the pandemic. But the likelihood of a person experiencing depression, anxiety and psychological distress varied depending on ethnicity, socioeconomic status, relationship status and profession, among other things. 

For example, depression was more common for males and people residing in rural areas, while anxiety was more prevalent among females and people living in urban centers. Other groups were at an increased risk of depression, anxiety and psychological distress, including people with children at home, health-care workers, and individuals making $60,000 or less.

The results indicate that the general rate of “serious mental health issues,” including depression and anxiety, “have more than doubled in the USA during the pandemic,” researchers wrote. 

Those rates have likely increased as the pandemic has dragged on, they added, as Americans continue to struggle with daily stressors, including “job loss, fear of getting infected, worries about national sociopolitical climate and media exposure.” Those worries, sparked for many at the onset of the pandemic last year, may also “have been the precursors of clinical levels of depression and anxiety as found in this study.”

Because poor mental health can lead to poorer health outcomes in general, researchers recommended longer-term studies to “assess the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic" on mental health, as well as examining long-term consequences, “such as substance abuse, disability and suicides.” That research could be used to design intervention strategies, they said.

Kate Elizabeth Queram is a staff correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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