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How coronavirus is hurting people even if they don’t catch the disease

Published Jun 1st, 2020 1:40PM EDT
Coronavirus Mental Health
Image: Carlos Tischler/Shutterstock

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  • Two new studies show that the novel coronavirus is impacting mental health as well because of two separate side-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Millions of people lost their jobs as lockdown measures intensified, prompting many to worry about their finances more than usual.
  • Some patients who suffer from mental health issues that require support also said they had less access to help than before, and the available support wasn’t as effective.

The novel coronavirus hasn’t disappeared, although news detailing the pandemic may have taken a back seat to the increased coverage the George Floyd protests have received in previous days. The widespread movement against police brutality is all happening against the COVID-19 backdrop. The infection is still there and new outbreaks can occur without notice, even though many countries are slowly opening up to some sense of normalcy following more than two months of lockdowns and strict social distancing measures.

You may have escaped the coronavirus for the time being, but that doesn’t mean you’re in perfect health. Many people ignored other medical conditions because of the COVID-19 scare. And many more people may suffer from various mental health issues that may have been exacerbated during the lockdowns. Two new studies show that COVID-19 is affecting mental health, which could turn out to be a serious issue if we have to endure a second wave in the coming weeks and months.

Mental Health Research Canada surveyed 1,803 Canadians in the last week of February and found that the levels of anxiety and depression increased significantly across Canada during the pandemic. Two in five Canadians said they were negatively impacted by self-isolation, and one-third of them increased alcohol consumption. Furthermore, the report said that anxiety levels quadrupled.

Financial stability worries were high during lockdowns, with people reporting increased concerns about themselves or family members. More than half of those who became unemployed as a result of the pandemic reported a negative impact on their mental health.

The study also showed that people felt they had less access to mental health support. Some 43% of people diagnosed with an anxiety disorder said they had less access to support since the start of the epidemic, and 36% said the quality of support they did have access to was not as helpful. “We also asked what your predicted mood would be if COVID-19 isolation were to last a couple more months. The percentage of people with high anxiety remained the same, but the survey is showing depression will get even worse,” researcher David Dozois told AFP Relax News.

Separately, the Australian National University (ANU) conducted its own mental health study and its findings were in line with the conclusions from Canada.

ANU compared mental health data from before the pandemic with data collected after the outbreak. The university found that the number of 18 to 24-year-olds experiencing severe psychological distress increased from 14% in February 2017 to 22.3% in April 2020. Those aged 25 to 34 years old saw an increase from 11.5% to 18.0% for the same period. In total, the study looked at data from 3,155 young Australians.

Money and unemployment were the leading causes of concern for respondents.

“Reductions in employment opportunities are having a significant impact on Millennials and Generation Z. They don’t have the kind of financial buffer older Australians have,” Associate Professor Ben Edwards told AFP. “This will have a long-lasting impact on young people’s lives. We need to consider what we can do to address the needs of our youth.”

The study also revealed that 59% of people are very hopeful about the future. “Almost two-thirds of Australians say they feel hopeful about the future at least three to four days of the week,” Edwards said. “Feeling hopeful can soften some negative mental health impacts.”

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.