COVID-19 stressors driven depression symptoms in the US up by 3X—to 27.8% from 8.5% pre-pandemic, according to a new survey in JAMA Network Open.
At-risk people include those with lower incomes, <$5000 in savings, and exposure to more stressors like unemployment, according to the survey of 1,441 US adults from March 31-April 13, 2020, compared to an earlier survey from 2017-2018.
Women, people who are single, widowed, divorced, or separated, and Asians also reported more symptoms, CIDRAP reports.
Depression rates no more than doubled after other traumatic events, such as 9/11 and Ebola outbreaks, the Boston University study authors note.
They urge policymakers to:
- Provide universal health insurance not tied to employment
- Extend eviction moratoria
- Help the jobless
The COVID-Chronic Stress Connection
Researchers are also investigating the role of chronic stress in severe cases of COVID-19, Vox reports.
“High levels of cortisol are associated with poor [COVID-19] outcomes, and drugs that block the hormone seem to improve outcomes,” says Kavita Vedhara, a University of Nottingham professor who is researching stress and the coronavirus.
Clinical trials have shown a benefit for critically ill patients given the drug dexamethasone, which reduces the body’s natural cortisol production—as well as inflammation.