Depression rates “triple” as nation deals with unemployment and financial hardship, says study

Depression rates have “tripled” as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting financial hardship, a major study has revealed.

The research, published by the Boston University School of Public Health, suggests growing unemployment rates, housing uncertainty and health worries have led to sky-high rates of mental illness.

According to the first-of-its-kind School of Public Health study, the prevalence of depression symptoms rose from 8.5 per cent among adults before the pandemic to 27.8 per cent now – representing a threefold increase.

The study compares this movement to other, large-scale traumatic events, where the average rise has been observed to “at most” double.

The investigation also found that respondents were most likely to report depression symptoms after experiencing financial hardship. For example, those with little savings were 50 per cent more likely to report symptoms compared to those with significant savings.

To carry out the study, the researchers used data from more than 5,000 adults who responded to previous studies on mental health and data from over 1,400 respondents to a new Covid-19 questionnaire on mental health and wellbeing.

Both groups were compared using the PHQ 9 – a common assessment of depressive symptoms.

Commenting on the paper, study senior author Sandro Galea said: “We were surprised to see these results at first, but other studies since conducted suggest similar-scale mental health consequences.”

Co-author Catherine Ettman added: “Persons who were already at risk before COVID-19, with fewer social and economic resources, were more likely to report probable depression, suggesting that inequity may increase during this time and that health gaps may widen.”

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