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Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
October 05, 2021
1 min read

Anxiety, depression severity scores have fluctuated throughout COVID-19 pandemic

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
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Average anxiety severity scores in the U.S. increased 13% between August 2020 and December 2020 and then decreased 26.8% from December 2020 to June, according to data published in MMWR.

Researchers noted similar fluctuations in depression severity scores.

Young Asian man wearing mask inside the home.
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“Recent studies indicate an increase in the percentage of adults who reported clinically relevant symptoms of anxiety and depression during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Haomiao Jia, PhD, of the department of biostatistics at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and School of Nursing in New York, and colleagues wrote. “For example, based on U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey (HPS) data, CDC reported significant increases in symptoms of anxiety and depressive disorders among adults aged [18 years or older] during August 19, 2020, to Feb. 1, 2021, with the largest increases among adults aged 18 to 29 years and among those with less than a high school education.”

The investigators sought to obtain data on more recent trends and state-specific trends using HPS data to evaluate changes in reported anxiety and depression among U.S. adults across the U.S. between Aug. 19, 2020, and June 7. They used data from adults aged 18 years or older via 19 biweekly surveys, with a total sample size of 1,526,154 participants.

Aside from the increase and decrease in average anxiety severity score, results showed an increase in the average depression severity score of 14.8% between August 2020 and December 2020 and a decrease of 24.8% between December 2020 and June. The researchers noted similarity between state-specific and national trends, with peaks in anxiety and depression scores for most states in Dec. 9, 2020, to the Dec. 21, 2020, wave and the January 6 to January 18 wave. Further, they reported a positive correlation between the frequency of anxiety and depression symptoms and the average number of daily COVID-19 cases across the entire study period.

“Fluctuations in symptoms of anxiety and depression during the pandemic highlight the importance of real-time monitoring of mental health symptoms,” Jia and colleagues wrote. “Tracking these outcomes, including by demographic characteristics, can provide early indicators of potential increases in the demand for mental health services and for the health care providers needed to treat persons with clinically significant symptoms.