Depression and Anxiety Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The coronavirus has upended people’s lives: They’re stuck at home, isolated and anxious about the state of the world. As a result, it has worsened American mental health, creating stress, loneliness, and fear. Depression and anxiety have increased in different ways during the pandemic.
To learn more, check out the infographic below, created by Counseling Degrees Online.
COVID-19’s Impact in the U.S.
The United States has experienced the highest number of COVID-19-related deaths. The death toll from January 2020 to January 2022 exceeded 800,000. Early on, distress and crisis lines reported an influx of new callers. A September 2020 study found depression symptoms had increased by three times compared with the pre-pandemic level. For many, the pandemic is one crisis layered on top of preexisting mental health and addiction crises. COVID-19 has shaken the country to its core — something psychologists say is guaranteed to leave a mental scar.
COVID-19’s Effect on Depression and Anxiety
The pandemic has created mental health issues and exacerbated existing conditions: 18% of people who had COVID-19 were subsequently diagnosed with a mental health disorder.
How Are Adults Coping?
Only 1 in 10 adults reported experiencing anxiety or a depressive episode in 2019. In 2020, that number rose to 4 in 10. Adults also reported trouble sleeping and trouble eating, as well as a worsening of chronic conditions due to stress and an increase in alcohol or substance use.
How Are Young Adults Coping?
For those ages 18 to 24, the pandemic has led to a loss of income due to business closures and interruptions in higher education. As a result, more than half of young people have reported experiencing anxiety or a depressive episode. More than a quarter of these adults have experienced suicidal thoughts, and a quarter of them have seen their alcohol or substance use increase.
Who Is More Likely to Experience Anxiety and Depression?
Adults in low-income households or those who have experienced job loss are bearing the brunt of the mental health damage. Similarly, women with children are shouldering more than men with children, while essential workers are more likely to experience suicidal thoughts compared with the general population. While 41% of white people shoulder anxiety and depression because of the pandemic, nearly 50% of Black people do.
The Impact of a Lengthy Crisis
Data from the CDC shows the effects of an ongoing disease outbreak on mental health. Between August 2020 and February 2021, the number of people who said they had experienced anxiety or a depressive episode went up. The number of people who said they had sought treatment for poor mental health also went up, and unfortunately, so did the number of people who said they weren’t able to access the treatment they needed.
How to Cope
There are plenty of ways to safeguard or bolster your mental health. Start by getting adequate sleep. Make sure you stay regularly physically active and eat healthy. If possible, avoid tobacco, alcohol, and drugs. Make a point to minimize your screen time. Stick to a routine, stay busy, and limit your exposure to the news. As much as you can, try to think positively. And prioritize some time just for yourself — even if it’s only a few moments.
How to Get Help
The pandemic has taken a toll on mental health. More people are feeling stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed than before. But that doesn’t mean people are without help. Those looking for assistance can start with MentalHealth.gov or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
CDC, “Symptoms of Anxiety or Depressive Disorder and Use of Mental Health Care Among Adults During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, August 2020–February 2021”
JAMA Network, “Prevalence of Depression Symptoms in US Adults Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic”
KFF, “The Implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health and Substance Use”
Mayo Clinic, “COVID-19 and Your Mental Health”
National Institute of Mental Health, “One Year In: COVID-19 and Mental Health”
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
The New York Times, “Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case Count”
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Mentalhealth.gov