In the past seven months, the majority of the health news has been focused on the coronavirus pandemic. However, a very important associated impact that has been ignored in the process of covering the crisis has been the increase in depressive episodes as a result of widespread fear of catching the virus as well as other effects that have occurred alongside.
A number of health experts had already warned about the additional problems that may arise as a result of strategies implied to control the pandemic, such as mental health issues, which have increased tremendously especially among lower socio-economic classes and ethnic or racial minorities.
In fact, new research suggests that the symptoms of mental health disorders including depression have increased by three times in all adults above the age of eighteen.
More precisely, the researchers found that the prevalence of the known signs of depressive episodes was approximately 8.5 percent. After the implementation of the first lockdown for coronavirus, the symptoms went up to 27.8 percent, which is a threefold increase.
The findings of the research, which appear in the journal JAMA Network Open, show that while the majority has managed to follow official guidelines for the prevention of the coronavirus infection, mental illness has not received the same amount of attention.
Most people are washing hands, wearing masks, and maintaining six feet distance in every public place possible. During the lockdown, nearly all of the population was also socially isolating and had limited contact with others including relatives and friends as well.
Recent studies have shown that measures such as these and lockdowns in general have prevented millions of new infections in the US as well as in other countries around the world.
However, these strategies have taken a toll on the mental health of the majority, which has been worsened further due to little contact and limited mental health facilities and counselors.
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The lockdowns for coronavirus and preventive measures have had multiple effects on everyday lives. Not only have people, especially those from vulnerable groups such as older adults, socially isolated themselves to a significant extent but also experienced a number of other problems.
For instance, nearly twenty-one million Americans had reportedly lost their jobs and had filed for unemployment soon after the imposition of lockdowns and coronavirus pandemic, in the month of April.
Even if the lockdowns have been lifted now, the soaring unemployment rates have not improved in the US. Other countries are also having similar problems as many people have lost their means of earning.
According to the new study, people experiencing economic uncertainty, most of whom are from lower socio-economic classes and those form high-risk groups have had the highest increase in symptoms of depressive episodes.
In addition to fear of the infection and financial issues, the uncertainty of the future has also been deemed as a contributor to depression levels. Till now, scientists do not know when the pandemic will exactly end.
For people who have had plans for education, jobs, and family, this can be a big problem. Planning during a health crisis can be difficult as the situation can change anytime.
The researchers suggest seeking professional help as soon as possible in case a person has symptoms of depressive episodes during the coronavirus pandemic including mood swings, lack of motivation and energy, difficulty in sleeping, and unexplained feelings of sadness and guilt.