The widely reported increase in anxiety and depression at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 gave way to highly variable mental health symptoms, a study shows. “This suggests that different populations responded differently to the psychological stress generated by the pandemic and its containment measures,” conclude the investigators.
Across 43 studies of 331,628 participants, the dose–response meta-analysis showed these results: “Changes in symptoms of psychological distress, sleep disturbances, and mental well-being varied substantially across studies. On average, depression and anxiety symptoms worsened in the first 2 months of the pandemic (standardized mean difference at 60 days, −0.39 [95% credible interval, −0.76 to −0.03]); thereafter, the trajectories were heterogeneous. There was a linear association of worsening depression and anxiety with increasing numbers of reported cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection and increasing stringency in governmental measures. Gender, age, country, deprivation, inequalities, risk of bias, and study design did not modify these associations.”
An author video is available on the Annals website.