By Travis Decaminada
Key Takeaway: The Covid-19 pandemic appears to have either created or exacerbated a host of mental health issues for individuals worldwide. In addition to marked increase in reports of anxiety and depression, the pandemic has also been linked with an increase in substance use as well as political unrest and even violence.
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a dramatic and negative impact on our collective mental health. Per an article in Nature, over 40% of surveyed Americans report having dealt with at least one mental health issue since December of 2020, an increase of 11% from 2019. The source of a person’s mental illness can stem from a number of pandemic-related issues including the stress from lockdown, working remotely, limited social interactions, losing a loved one, fear of the virus and more. Of note, younger people are reportedly more susceptible to pandemic-induced mental health disorders than are their elders, perhaps as a result of a greater need for social interaction. Women, especially those with children, are also reportedly more vulnerable to this type of socialization deprivation disorder.
The article goes on to describe how scientists hope to be able to better understand how individual Covid-19 control measures, such as lockdowns, impact an individual’s mental health. Per the article, should they be successful, then more effective precautions could be put in place should a new pandemic arise.
Long Term Impacts
Per the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), some people who have experienced Covid-19 related trauma may develop post-traumatic stress disorder:
A notable fraction of people will develop chronic symptoms severe enough to meet criteria for a mental illness, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or major depressive disorder. People who experience more severe stressors, such as exposure to the dead or dying, and people with more prolonged disruptions are more likely to experience enduring symptoms that would benefit from intervention.
The NIMH article goes on to note that people who lack emotional, social, or economic support, and those with a history of mental illness are reportedly more likely to develop chronic symptoms.
A related article published by the Kaiser Family Foundation discusses the impact of Covid-19 on substance use. Perhaps expectedly, substance use increased during the pandemic, with one poll finding that 12% of Americans may have increased their consumption of alcohol or other inebriates during the timeframe. Younger adults were found to be nearly twice as likely to have increased their substance use during the pandemic.
Another article, published in PsyPost, reports on the impact of Covid-19’s mental health burden and its relationship with political upheaval (full study here). As stated in the article, “the perceived psychological burden of COVID-19 was associated with increased antisystem attitudes and stronger intentions to participate in political violence.” According to the article, this was found true for at least four countries, namely: The United States, Italy, Denmark, and Hungary.
Information on coping with pandemic related stress from the Centers for disease Control and Prevention (CDC).