CDC Study: COVID Pandemic Causes Increase in Adult Anxiety, Depression

CDC Study: COVID Pandemic Causes Increase in Adult Anxiety, Depression CDC Study: COVID Pandemic Causes Increase in Adult Anxiety, Depression (Dreamstime)

By Charles Kim | Tuesday, 05 October 2021 09:02 PM

The COVID-19 pandemic caused an increase in adult anxiety and depression during the fall of 2020 and winter of 2021, a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found.

The study, released Tuesday, found that adults reporting clinical symptoms of anxiety and depression increased between Aug. 19, 2020, through Feb. 1, 2021, to a peak of 13% in anxiety symptoms during the period, and an increase of 14% for symptoms of depression.

Using the U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey, the study found a “significant” increase in the symptoms, especially in adults aged 18-29 years, and those with less than a high school education.

A total of more than 1.5 million individuals responded to 19 bi-weekly surveys which were analyzed and compared to 2019 numbers prior to the pandemic.

The surveys looked at two indicators for anxiety and another two indicators for clinical depression, according to the study.

Anxiety averaged a 2.0 “severity score,” with depression having a score of around 1.6, both trending in a similar fashion throughout the study period.

Average scores rose during the fall, then dropped down a bit by spring to below the 1.5-2.0 levels in August.

“The frequency of anxiety and depression symptoms experienced among U.S. adults increased after August 2020, and peaked during December 2020–January 2021,” the study said. “The frequency of symptoms subsequently decreased but in June 2021 remained elevated compared with estimates from the 2019 NHIS [National Center for Health Statistics].”

The increase in symptoms mirrored increases in reported new cases of COVID both nationally and at the state level.

The study recommends more real time monitoring of these factors to make mental health services available during situations like the pandemic.

“Predicting and planning for fluctuations in demand for behavioral health services is often difficult; however, real-time monitoring of mental health symptoms can provide important information for responding to surges in the demand for mental health services during national emergencies,” the study said. “The observed differences in severity score magnitude and peaks across states in this study indicate that these efforts are important at both the national and state levels.”

The study said that making those services available during pandemics and other emergencies is “critical,” particularly among populations disproportionately impacted, that may be “more vulnerable” to the psychological consequences.

It also found a correlation between anxiety, depression and the increasing morbidity and mortality rates during the period.

The study does not account for the recent surge of the delta variant during the spring and summer of 2021.