COVID-19: cases of depression and anxiety increased by more than a quarter during the pandemic

 

Cases of major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders increased by more than a quarter worldwide in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the first global estimates of impacts of the pandemic on mental health, published in The Lancet.

 

In 2020, cases of major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders increased by 28% and 26%, respectively. Women were affected more than men, and younger people were more affected than older age groups.

 

Countries with high COVID-19 infection rates and major reductions in the movement of people – a consequence of measures such as lockdowns and school closures – had the greatest increases in prevalence of major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders.

 

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders – which can increase the risk of other health outcomes such as suicide – were major contributors to the global burden of disease, affecting millions of men and women of all ages around the world.

 

Until now, no studies had analysed the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on prevalence of major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders in 2020. Most previous work consisted of surveys in specific locations over a short time period.

 

The new study is the first to assess global impacts of the pandemic on major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders, quantifying the prevalence and burden by age, gender, and location in 204 countries and territories in 2020.

 

A systematic literature review was performed to identify population survey data published between January 1, 2020, and January 29, 2021. Eligible studies reported prevalence of depressive or anxiety disorders that were representative of the general population and had a pre-pandemic baseline.

 

Using a disease modelling meta-analysis tool, data from eligible studies was used to estimate changes in prevalence of major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders due to COVID-19 based on age, gender, and location.

 

Estimates of daily COVID-19 infection rate and movement of people were used as indicators of the impact of the pandemic on populations.

 

The systematic review identified 5,683 unique data sources, of which 48 met inclusion criteria. Most studies were from Western Europe and high-income North America, with others from Australasia, high-income Asia Pacific, East Asia, and central Europe.

 

The meta-analysis indicates that increased COVID-19 infection rate and reduced movement of people were associated with increased prevalence of major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders, suggesting that countries hit hardest by the pandemic in 2020 had the greatest increases in prevalence of the disorders.

 

In the absence of the pandemic, model estimates suggest there would have been 193 million cases of major depressive disorder globally in 2020. However, the analysis shows there were 246 million cases, an increase of 28%. More than 35 million of the additional cases were in women, compared with close to 18 million in men.

 

Model estimates suggest there would have been 298 million cases of anxiety disorders globally in 2020 had the pandemic not happened. The analysis indicates there were in fact an estimated 374 million cases during 2020, an increase of 26%. Almost 52 million of the additional cases were in women, compared with around 24 million in men.

 

Younger people were more affected by major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders in 2020 than older age groups. The additional prevalence of these disorders peaked among those aged 20-24 years and declined with increasing age.

This post is also available in: Chinese (Simplified)

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