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One in three adults, especially women, younger adults, and those of lower socioeconomic status, have mental health problems related to COVID-19, researchers from Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore reported in the journal PLOS ONE.

COVID-19 continues to pose a serious threat to public health around the world, and measures such as lockdowns, quarantines and social distancing are detrimental to the mental well-being of the population. The pandemic has increased the exposure to psychological stress such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, and insomnia. However, the factors associated with increased susceptibility to mental distress in adults in the general population during COVID-19 are not yet well known.

“Understanding these factors is critical to developing prevention programs and planning mental health resources during the rapidly evolving COVID-19 outbreak,” said Professor Tazeen Jafar, of the Duke-NUS Health Services and Systems Research Program, which directs the Study conducted. “These factors could be used to identify populations at high risk for mental distress so that they can be offered targeted remote and personal interventions.”

Prof. Jafar and her team performed a meta-analysis of 68 studies conducted during the pandemic, involving 288,830 participants from 19 countries, to assess the risk factors associated with anxiety and depression in the general population. They found that among those most severely affected by COVID-19-related anxiety or depression, women, younger adults, those of lower socioeconomic status, people living in rural areas, and people at high risk of COVID-19 infection are more likely to be affected were psychological stress.

The finding that women are more likely to experience psychological distress than men is in line with other global studies that have shown that anxiety and depression are more common in women. “The lower social status of women and less preferred access to health care compared to men could possibly be responsible for the exaggerated negative psychosocial effects on women,” the researchers suggested. “Therefore, mental health services outreach programs need to be proactive in targeting women.”

Younger adults under 35 were more likely to have mental health problems than those over 35. While the reasons for this are unclear, previous studies suggest that this may be due to younger people’s better access to COVID-19 information through the media. This current study also confirmed that prolonged media exposure was linked to a higher likelihood of anxiety and depression.

Other factors associated with psychological distress were living in rural areas; lower education, lower income or unemployment; and there is a high risk of COVID-19 infection. However, it has been shown that increased family and social support and the use of positive coping strategies reduce the risk of psychological distress.

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

Professor Patrick Casey, Senior Vice Dean of Research at Duke-NUS said: “Despite the tremendous advances in vaccines, the world has realized that the COVID-19 pandemic will be with us for the long term. Professor Jafar’s study provides valuable information Insights into the psychological burden the pandemic is having on populations around the world and identifies specific groups that may receive additional support, be it from their families or a health care provider. ”

13 percent of adults in the United States report serious mental distress during COVID-19

More information:
Wang Y, Kala MP, Jafar TH (2020). Factors Related to Psychological Stress During the 2019 Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Pandemic in the Mostly General Population: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. PLoS ONE 15 (12): e0244630. Provided by Duke-NUS Medical School

Quote: Every third adult reports anxiety and depression related to COVID-19 (2021, January 27), accessed January 27, 2021 from covid-.html

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