According to a Boston University study published in JAMA Network Open, the prevalence of depressive symptoms in adults in the US increased more than three-fold in the spring during the COVID-19 pandemic compared with before the pandemic. During the pandemic, the study found 27.8 percent of US adults had symptoms of depression, as measured by the Patient Health Questionnaire-9, compared to 8.5 percent before the outbreak.
“Depression in the general population after large scale traumatic events has been observed to, at most, double,” said senior author Sandro Galea. Galea is Dean and Robert A. Knox Professor at Boston University School of Public Health. He cites examples such as September 11, the Ebola outbreak, and civil unrest in Hong Kong. “We were surprised to see these results at first, but other studies since conducted suggest similar-scale mental health consequences.”
The survey study included 1,441 respondents from during the COVID-19 pandemic and 5,065 respondents from before the pandemic, showed a decrease in income, having less than $5,000 in savings, and exposure to more stressors. These three variables were associated with a greater risk of depressive symptoms during COVID-19.
“As an event that can cause physical, emotional, and psychological harm, the COVID-19 pandemic can itself be considered a traumatic event,” wrote Galea et al. in the introduction to the study. “In addition, the policies created to prevent its spread introduced new life stressors and disrupted daily living for most people in the US.”
The study provided more early evidence suggesting that COVID-19 is associated with triggering mental illness. “Mental health is sensitive to traumatic events and their social and economic consequences. Previous studies on disruptions to life [such as] disasters, epidemics, or civil unrest suggest that exposure to large-scale traumatic events are associated with increased burden of mental illness in the populations affected,” wrote the authors.
The researchers found an increase in depressive symptoms among all demographic groups. However, the biggest demographic difference came down to financial security.
“Persons who were already at risk before COVID-19, with fewer social and economic resources, were more likely to report probable depression, suggesting that inequity may increase during this time and that health gaps may widen,” said study lead author Catherine Ettman. Her research team hopes the study’s findings will help those who are experiencing depression in this challenging time to see they are not alone: one in four US adults is likely going through something very similar.
People who are diagnosed with mental health disorders, such as depression, frequently misuse drugs and alcohol, and vice versa. The high prevalence of substance use disorder (SUD) and co-occurring comorbidities has been documented in multiple national population surveys since the 1980s. Unsurprisingly, the pandemic has not only increased the prevalence of depressive symptoms but has also led to a significant increase in substance use. Effective treatment should address both concerns.
If you or a loved one suffer from a SUD or other mental health disorder, Recovery Ways can help. We are dually licensed to treat mental health and addiction. Recovery Ways recently created a specialized mental health program for those struggling with depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mood disorders, in addition to our acclaimed addiction treatment program. Our Mental Health Primary program offers profound and comprehensive long-term support. A substance use disorder (SUD) is not required for admission to this program. For more information on all treatment options, please reach out to us at (888) 988-5217.