Globally, cases of depression and anxiety increased by more than a quarter during the first year of the pandemic, especially among women and young adults, a major study showed on Saturday.
In the first worldwide estimate of the mental health impact of COVID-19, researchers estimated an additional 52 million people will suffer from major depressive disorder in 2020, and an additional 76 million cases of anxiety.
These represent a 28- and 26-percent increase in the two disorders, respectively, according to the study published in The Lancet medical journal.
Covid-19 has claimed nearly 5 million lives since it emerged in late 2019, but experts say this is an overestimation.
Friday’s study showed that the worst-affected countries were saddled with the greatest mental health burden, with a strong link between high Covid-19 case levels, restrictions on movement, and higher rates of depression and anxiety.
Lead study author Damien Santomaro from the University of Queensland School of Public Health said, “Our findings highlight the urgent need to strengthen mental health systems to address the growing burden of major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders worldwide. “
“Meeting the additional demand for mental health services due to COVID-19 will be challenging, but taking no action should not be an option.”
Analyzing data collected in North America, Europe and East Asia, the researchers modeled the expected prevalence of depression and anxiety.
Had there not been a pandemic, 193 million cases of depression would have been feared. This was compared to the 246 million cases seen during 2020.
Similarly, for anxiety, the model predicted 298 million cases of concern globally without COVID-19, while the actual number of cases last year was 374 million.
The analysis showed that women suffered disproportionately, mainly because pandemic measures exacerbated existing health and social inequality in most countries.
Extra care and domestic duties still fall primarily to women, and women are more likely to be victims of domestic violence, which escalated during the pandemic.
The study shows that school and college closures limit youth’s ability to learn, interact with peers and secure employment, affecting the mental health of 20-24-year-olds.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has undermined many of the existing inequalities, and social determinants of mental health disorders, and mechanisms for improving mental health in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic on a global scale,” said Alizee Ferrari from the University of Queensland.
“It is important that policy makers take into account underlying factors such as these as part of measures to strengthen mental health services.”
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NB staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)