The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted millions of people, jobs, and businesses, bringing restrictions on interactions. This virus has also taken a toll on many people’s mental health. Researchers in several fields continue to take stock of the virus and the devastation it has wrought. Some of the effects of the pandemic are bound to remain long after the pandemic itself has gone.
The physical health impacts of the pandemic are apparent, but research is showing that the mental implications of the coronavirus may even be more significant.
The progression of COVID-19 has increased the risk factors for mental health challenges. Stabilizing factors like employment, social interactions, access to health and other services have also been impacted by the pandemic, causing a downturn in public mental health.
Rumors and misinformation about the pandemic have also contributed to stress levels leading to an increased risk of developing or worsening mental health disorders.
Surveys reveal a significant rise in the number of people who report symptoms of anxiety, depression, stress, and insomnia since the pandemic started. There has also been an increase in alcohol and substance use, usually by people trying to cope with the pandemic’s effects.
What Does Research Say?
The number of people who report or seek treatments for depression has increased more than any other mental health condition since the start of the pandemic. In fact, a study by Lancet Regional Health showed that depression cases have risen by more than three times during the pandemic.
This increase is larger in scope than similar large-scale traumatic occurrences like terror attacks, severe weather, and previous pandemics.
According to figures from the study, 32% of US adults reported increased depression symptoms in 2021, compared to 27.8% during the pandemic in 2020 and 8.5% before the pandemic.
Like the Lancet study, a health tracking poll from July 2020 showed that 40% of US adults reported anxiety or depression during the pandemic. While 36% disclosed sleeping issues, a separate set of the same percentage expressed eating problems.
That said, 12% reported substance use or alcohol consumption. Summing things up, a distinct 12% also disclosed worsening chronic conditions due to coronavirus-related worry.
The most significant predictors of depression during the pandemic include low household income, staying single, and experiencing multiple stressors like isolation, a restricted routine, and general uncertainty about the future.
From this study, it’s clear that depression remains the most prevalent mental health issue.
Demographics of Depression and Mental Illness Prevalence During the Pandemic
Several studies are being executed to understand the pandemic’s effect on people’s mental health in the public sphere. The results are as follows:
Since the pandemic began, many young adults have dealt with depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and disruptions to their routines.
Thus, a significant proportion of young adults has reported depression and anxiety to older adults. Young adults (aged 18 to 24) are more likely to engage in substance abuse and have suicidal thoughts.
Low-income Earners and Unemployed Individuals
The economic implications of COVID-19 have affected many people’s income and livelihood. People who experienced job loss due to the pandemic report higher depression and anxiety symptoms than those who were fortunate to retain theirs.
Other mental health conditions like substance abuse or overeating are more likely to affect people who have had financial constraints due to the pandemic. Households that experience income loss are also more likely to worry over the adverse effects of the pandemic on their mental health.
Essential Health Workers
Healthcare workers, grocery employees, delivery personnel, and other essential workers still have to go on with their jobs during the pandemic, putting them at a higher risk of contracting the virus.
They work away from home and often cannot adhere to pandemic guidelines, making them susceptible to poor mental health.
Frontline healthcare workers reported feelings of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts during the pandemic. Still, on the subject, 64% of households with a healthcare worker said that worry over the pandemic impacted their mental health negatively.
Parents and Children
Many schools closed at the height of the pandemic and transitioned to virtual learning forms. These closures disrupted the regular routines of parents and their children in ways that could affect mental outcomes.
Some pandemic research has highlighted poor mental health outcomes for many parents and children. Adults in homes with children under 18 are more likely to report symptoms of depression and anxiety than adults in households without kids.
Minority Ethnic Groups
Black and Hispanic communities experienced disproportionately higher infection and death rates due to COVID-19. Individuals in these regions will likely bear the negative economic impacts of the pandemic.
Members of these communities also report more cases of pandemic-related depression and anxiety and the negative impacts of the pandemic on their existing relationships. That said, parents have attributed their inability to care for their children to COVID-19.
How You Can Protect Your Mental Health During the Pandemic
Besides regular treatment for depression and other health conditions, you can take care of your mental health during a pandemic by adopting some of these self-care strategies:
Limit Exposure to the News
The 24-hour news cycle on COVID-19 can perpetuate fear about the virus putting your mental health at risk. To nip this issue in the bud, limit your exposure to the news, especially from social media, as this can be a prime source of rumors and misinformation.
If you must stay updated with COVID news, ensure you only get your information from reliable sources.
Keep a Routine
Even if you are working from home, maintaining a routine helps you stay in control. A schedule keeps you focused, and you have less time to feed the negative thoughts that fuel depression.
Connect With Others
Friends, family, and colleagues can help you stay grounded during the pandemic, particularly if you work from home.
Create time daily to connect with them via phone, video, or social networks. Communicate with those around you and try to be a source of support for those who need help in these uncertain times.
The pandemic has affected us in one way or another, and it is essential to find effective coping mechanisms. Mental health challenges during this negative event are more likely to outlast physical health issues.
Thus, taking deliberate steps to avoid stressors that cause or exacerbate depression and related mental health issues is necessary.