Infectious Disease

Psychiatric symptoms increased during the pandemic

Increased loneliness during the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic may increase the risk of psychiatric disorders as the rate of psychiatric symptoms has increased during the pandemic. These results of an online survey were published in Depression and Anxiety.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine recruited individuals (N = 4909) ages 13 and older who live in the United States. They were recruited through Facebook and Instagram ads between April and July 2020. Participants were assessed for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) using the 9-point patient health questionnaire (PHQ-9), 7-point generalized anxiety disorder (GAD-7). , for thoughts of suicide and non-suicidal self-harm and grief.

The participants had a mean age of 40.3 (± 17.6) years, 80% were women or girls and 82% were white.

Of those surveyed, 35% suspected they had been exposed to COVID-19 and 11% had tested positive for it. Some participants (7.5%) said they needed a test but did not have access to one. Most of the participants (91%) said they followed the social distancing recommendations.

Current clinically significant symptoms of sleep disorders (58%), grief (55%), PTSD (34%), depression (32%), anxiety (31%), and suicidal thoughts or behavior (18%) have been reported.

Stratified by age, adults were negatively affected by more aspects of the pandemic.

In adults, all factors assessed except gender were associated with depression (P £ 0.032). Similarly, most of the factors assessed (excluding gender, ethnicity, household conflicts, and suicidal ideation) were associated with anxiety (all P £ 0.019).

PTSD in adults has been linked to gender, race, loneliness, social status, sleep disorders, household conflicts, household income, chronic illness and stress (all P £ 0.043). Suicidal thoughts or behavior were associated with lifelong suicidal ideation, loneliness and stress (all P £ .002) and persistent distress related to loneliness (P = .008).

Depression in adolescents was significantly linked to 6 factors (loneliness, general health, insomnia, stress, and time spent using social media or playing video games; all P £ 0.043), and anxiety was linked to 9 factors (gender, social Status, loneliness, stress, previous suicide attempt, expected COVID-19 exposure, health concerns about COVID-19, general health and internet use; all P £ .042).

This study may have been skewed by how the participants were asked differently about their age. For example, adults have not been screened for their time on social media or the internet, and it remains unclear whether these factors could have contributed to the psychiatric symptoms observed.

These results suggest that psychiatric symptoms may increase in vulnerable populations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Concerted public health strategies are needed to address the consequences of increased psychiatric symptoms.


Murata S., Rezeppa T., Thoma B. et al. The Psychiatric Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Adolescents, Adults, and Healthcare Workers. Published online December 28, 2020. Depress Anxiety. doi: 10.1002 / da.23120

This article originally appeared on Psychiatry Advisor

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