Depression and anxiety rates have more than doubled during the pandemic, according to a team of researchers at Ball State University.
An analysis of 1,978 people across the nation found that in July, the rates of depression (39 percent), anxiety (42 percent), and psychological distress (39 percent indicating symptoms of both depression and anxiety) were more than double the rates from before the pandemic.
“While a few studies estimated mental health of Americans early in the pandemic, we conducted our study in summer to estimate the true impact of long-term lockdowns, isolation, and excessive use of technology,” said study co-author Sushil Sharma, associate dean for operations in the Miller College of Business. “The nature and extent of loneliness and screen time use along with the fear on media and constant news cycle could have detrimental impact on mental health of Americans.”
The findings are in the study “Post-Lockdown Depression and Anxiety in the USA during COVID Pandemic,” which was recently published in the Journal of Public Health, Oxford University Press.
Sharma and Ball State psychological counseling professor Sharon Bowman conducted the study with colleagues from multiple institutions, including former Ball State researcher Jagdish Khubchandani.
The study also found:
- The prevalence of depression was higher among those who were: 18-25 years old; male; Hispanic; married; caring for children at home; healthcare workers; earning less than $60,000 a year; and from rural areas or the Western U.S.
- The prevalence of anxiety was higher among those who were: 18-25 years old; African-American; Hispanic; married; caring for children at home; full-time healthcare workers; earning less than $60,000; urban dwellers; and from the Western U.S.
- The prevalence of moderate-to-severe psychological distress (symptoms of both depression and anxiety) was higher among those who were: 18-40 years old; male; Hispanic; married; caring for children at home; healthcare workers; earning less than $60,000 a year; and living in the Western U.S.
“A wide range of text message-based interventions, mass media campaigns, telehealth services, and computer-based interventions are broadly available to improve population mental health,” Sharma said. “We are also now looking at the effect of constant technology use and news cycle. It has to be a fine balance between using technology to improve mental health while not overwhelming individuals with more technology.”
The research team stressed that policymakers and public health practitioners should redouble their efforts to implement population-based interventions to improve mental health and to address the multiple detrimental stressors of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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