COVID-19 TRIPLED DEPRESSION RATE AMONG ADULTS IN US
A first-of-its-kind study from the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) finds 27.8% of U.S. adults had depression symptoms as of mid-April, compared to 8.5% before the COVID-19 pandemic, ScienceDaily reported on September 3, 2020. Published in the journal JAMA Network Open, the study also found that income and savings are the most dramatic predictors of depression symptoms in the time of COVID.
"Depression in the general population after prior large scale traumatic events has been observed to, at most, double," says study senior author Dr. Sandro Galea, Dean and Robert A. Knox Professor at BUSPH, citing 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," Galea says. These studies have mainly been conducted in Asia and focused on specific populations such as healthcare workers and college students (one such study found depression symptoms among half of Chinese health care workers who had treated COVID patients).
The new BUSPH study is the first nationally-representative study in the US to assess the change in depression prevalence before and during COVID using the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ 9), the leading self-administered depression screening tool. The researchers used data from 5,065 respondents to the 2017-2018 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), and 1,441 respondents from the COVID-19 Life Stressors Impact on Mental Health and Well-Being (CLIMB) study, which was conducted from March 31 to April 13, 2020, when 96% of the US population was under stay-at-home advisories or shelter-in-place policies.
Both surveys used the PHQ 9 to assess depression symptoms and gathered the same demographic data, and the 2020 survey also gathered data on COVID-related stressors including job loss, the death of a friend or loved one from COVID, and financial problems. Across the board, the researchers found an increase in depression symptoms among all demographic groups. Not surprisingly, experiencing more COVID-related stressors was a major predictor of depression symptoms. However, the biggest demographic difference came down to money. After adjusting for all other demographics, the researchers found that, during COVID, someone with less than $5,000 in savings was 50% more likely to have depression symptoms than someone with more than $5,000.