By Melissa Hanson masslive.com
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The study, which was published Wednesday in JAMA Network Open reveals the increase in depression is higher than that recorded after previous mass traumatic events, likely reflecting the far more pervasive influence of COVID-19 and its social and economic consequences than other, previously studied mass traumatic events.
A study from Boston University researchers suggests that the prevalence of depression symptoms in adults is three-fold higher during the coronavirus pandemic compared to the most recent population-based estimates of mental health in the United States.
The study was a population-representative survey of adults conducted at the beginning of the pandemic in the U.S.
On the final day of the survey, April 13, the coronavirus death toll in the country was more than 23,000 individuals and more than 600,000 cases had been confirmed. Meanwhile, states including Massachusetts were under stay-at-home orders and unemployment was reaching new highs.
“This increase in depression symptom prevalence is higher than that recorded after previous mass traumatic events, likely reflecting the far more pervasive influence of COVID-19 and its social and economic consequences than other, previously studied mass traumatic events,” reads the study conclusion reads, which was published Wednesday in JAMA Network Open.
Results suggest that the context of the pandemic, as well as its economic consequences, has led to an increase in mental illness for American adults. The burden is on people in economically and socially marginalized groups, the study indicates.
Further data will be needed to assess the trajectory of depression and potential treatments, according to the study results.
The nationally representative study included 1,441 respondents from during the pandemic and 5,065 respondents from before the pandemic and used two population-based surveys of U.S. adults ages 18 or older.
Respondents were surveyed during the pandemic from March 31 to April 13. For data before the pandemic, estimates were derived from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which was conducted from 2017 to 2018.
Of the participants during the pandemic, 43% were 18 to 39 years old, 50.2% were men and 64.7% were non-Hispanic white. Respondents before the pandemic included 37.8% of participants from 18 to 39 years old, 51.4% were women and 62.9% were non-Hispanic white.
Depression symptom prevalence was more than three-fold higher during the pandemic and lower-income individuals with less than $5,000 in savings and exposure to more stressors were associated with a greater risk of depression during the pandemic, the findings suggest.
“While too few people in the study had been diagnosed with COVID-19 themselves to meaningfully comment on differences in mental health between those who had and had not been diagnosed with COVID-19, we imagine that as the virus spreads and more cases of COVID-19 are confirmed, so too may mental illness increase among those with COVID-19 and those around them,” the study conclusion reads.
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