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The outbreak of coronavirus diseases (COVID-19) was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization in the second week of March 2020. Since then the figures for morbidity and mortality have been exponentially high. Till the current reports the virus has infected more than 68 million individuals worldwide and has caused more than 1.5 million deaths. However, it is crucial to understand that this health crisis is not just limited to physical illness but has also brought with itself detrimental influences on the mental, social, and financial aspects of life which are still prevailing. The current situation has given rise to psycho-social constraints that are feared to stay around for a couple of decades. Multiple surveys carried out worldwide report a sharp rise in mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, stress, sleep disorder, and substance abuse in association with the pandemic. Of high concern is the suicidal behavior or thoughts observed in these studies.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), released a report stating that young adults are particularly prone to these increases in mental health problems. Their study analyzed online surveys conducted in late June 2020, filled by more than 5,400 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. They found the percentage of Americans reporting symptoms of depression to be more than tripled during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. A similar survey that was conducted before the pandemic, documented 9% of respondents to report depressive symptoms, however, these percentages have jumped to 28% according to new survey data.

The mental health of the general population is sensitive to be affected following a widespread traumatic event, and their social and economic consequences, such as natural disasters, acts of terror, and civil unrest. Despite the existing data that predicted such mental health concerns in similar situations, researchers observe this current pandemic to contribute to the development of depression that is of a higher magnitude, unlike previously seen. This can be attributed to the wide range of stressors that have been identified and linked to the pandemic.

Here are few such factors that can explain the high rise in the depression around the globe since the beginning of the current pandemic.

  • The fear of the virus

  • The impending economic crisis

  • Social distancing or social isolation

  • Uncertainty regarding the future

The fear of the virus

What started as rumors of a simple cold, is now known to be an infectious disease of high contagious rates. Therefore, the fear of the unknown is not out of normal human responses. The anxiety related to contracting the virus or losing a loved one to it is the single most important factor leading to high levels of mental unrest in populations.

Similarly, as the accessibility to current information is also within reach of a single click these days, following the number of cases and deaths associated with the disease can cause mental strain. Researches conducted on this topic also comment upon the high distribution of misinformation about the illness on social media platforms to be playing a major role in the development of anxious and fearful attitudes.

The impending economic crisis

The economic burden of the pandemic has disproportionately affected the population, with the individuals with limited resources being severely distraught. However, it would still be unwise to say that the pandemic has not affected all the classes of life. All four dimensions of financial strain have been observed to increase in significant magnitudes such as debt, unemployment, homelessness, and lower-income since the beginning of the year. These are the same factors
that have also been linked with subsequent suicidal attempts and behaviors.

As the majority of the workspaces have shifted to homes, there is still a large population such as those in health care professionals and individuals in the services industry that do not have the privilege to work from home. These still have to risk their health by working outside to make a living. Similarly, due to the failure to adapt to the social distancing guidelines, a large number of business ventures have been closed, causing the rate of unemployment to significantly rise again. The unemployment rate was recorded to be reaching record highs in the US, with more than 20 million people filing for unemployment between the start of COVID-19 to just mid-April 2020.

This rising economic instability is feared to leave lasting effects on the mental health of communities severely affected by encouraging depressive thoughts and behavior in the general population.

Social distancing or social isolation

As of April 2020, forty-two states of America were under stay-at-home advisories or shelter-in-place policies, which was reported to affect at least 316 million individuals or approximately 96% of the population. Measures similar to these taken to contain the transmission of this highly contagious infection throughout the globe have altered the social, academic, and occupational practices. Multiple pieces of literature demonstrate that the unprecedented experience of ‘home quarantine’ has severely affected the everyday routine of individuals of all ages. Whether it be students compelled to continue their academics through online classes, or adults restricted to work from home. Individuals of all ages and classes have experienced a drastic change in their lifestyles which reflects upon their mental and physical wellbeing. A study specifically focusing on the effects of Covid-19 in association with extended duration of quarantine found a high prevalence of anxiety and depression among its respondents.

Similarly the increased incidence of emotions such as isolation and loneliness, due to restricted human interaction has strongly impacted interpersonal relationships.

Uncertainty regarding the future

As we articulate this article the distribution of the vaccine against the covid-19 to the public has begun in multiple parts of the world bringing a ray of hope in these dark times. However, the effectiveness of the vaccine along with the time needed for its distribution to the masses remains an uncertain topic to comment upon. Until then the only measures to lessen the psychological burden of the disease is to identify the at-risk population through existing resources and expanded use of telehealth. And to construct new programs to provide timely diagnosis, support, and treatment to such frail communities as the new findings highlight.


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