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1 in 3 adults are depressed or anxious due to Covid-19

The coronavirus pandemic has caused a spike in depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and insomnia, according to a report from the World Economic Forum, and the factors that increase a person’s susceptibility to psychological distress during Covid-19 are still not well known.

“Understanding these factors is crucial for designing preventive programs and mental health resource planning during the rapidly evolving COVID-19 outbreak,” said the paper’s lead author Tazeen Jafar, a professor in the Health Services and Systems Research Programme at Duke-NUS who led the study.

“These factors could be used to identify populations at high risk of psychological distress so they can be offered targeted remote and in-person interventions.”

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The study involved a meta-analysis of 68 other studies conducted during the coronavirus crisis that included 288,830 participants from 19 different countries.

It found that some of the most-affected groups when it comes to coronavirus-related depression or anxiety are women, younger adults, people living in rural areas, those with a high risk of contracting Covid-19, and unemployed people, or people of a lower socioeconomic status.

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), the finding that women are more likely to suffer psychological distress as a result of the coronavirus than men matches what other global studies that have shown about anxiety and depression being more common in women.

“The lower social status of women and less preferential access to healthcare compared to men could potentially be responsible for the exaggerated adverse psychosocial impact on women,” the WEF said. “Thus, outreach programs for mental health services must target women proactively.”

One theory for why younger adults – those age 35 or under – are more likely to experience depression and anxiety related to the pandemic is that they have greater access to information about the coronavirus crisis through the media.

The study also found that longer media exposure was associated with a higher chance of experiencing anxiety and depression.

“The general public and healthcare professionals need to be aware of the high burden of psychological distress during the pandemic as well as education on coping strategies,” Jafar said. “Patients need to be encouraged to seek help, and access mental health counseling services with appropriate referrals.”

The study says that the coronavirus continues to pose serious threats to public health worldwide, and interventions such as lockdowns, quarantine, and social distancing are having an adverse impact on mental well-being.

Helen Lyons
The Brussels Times