Pandemic Triples Depression Prevalence

A restless teenager isolates for another day in Brooklyn, New York on  April 25, 2020. Image: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty
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A restless teenager isolates for another day in Brooklyn, New York on April 25, 2020. Image: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty

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 symptomsCIDRAP 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.

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