‘Alarming’ levels of loneliness reported amidst Covid-19: Survey

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on November 17, 2020

A new survey revealed that the coronavirus pandemic has led to “significant depressive symptoms” with over 80 per cent of people struggling with loneliness, depression, and other mental health issues.

Researchers surveyed over 1,000 US adults belonging to the age group of 18-35 years. They also asked subjects to report their substance use.

The findings of the study were published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. It showed that “alarming” levels of loneliness are associated with significant mental health issues, as approximately 61 per cent of respondents reporting moderate (45 per cent) to severe (17 per cent) anxiety.

Meanwhile, 30 per cent of respondents disclosed harmful levels of drinking. And, although only 22 per cent of the respondents reported using drugs, 38 per cent of these reported severe drug use.

Lead author Professor Viviana Horigian, from the University of Miami, stated: “The convergence of the Covid-19 pandemic and the loneliness and addiction epidemics in the US is here to stay. These young adults are the future of our nation’s social fabric. They need to be given access to psychological help, coupled with the development and dissemination of brief online contact-based interventions that encourage healthy lifestyles.”

“Addressing mental health and substance use problems in young adults, both during and after the Covid-19 pandemic, is imperative,” she added.

The researchers also investigated the indirect effects of loneliness and social connectedness on alcohol and drug use working through anxiety and depression. In addition, they characterised relationships by pre- and post-Covid behaviour and psychosocial symptomatology.

The results show that most participants who reported an increase in feelings of loneliness also indicated an increase in drinking (58 per cent), drug use (56 per cent), anxiety (76 per cent), and depression (78 per cent), and a decrease in feelings of connectedness (58 per cent).

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Overall rise

Looking at general increases of mental health issues or substance use due to the pandemic, most issues were recorded by participants as rising, with their feelings of loneliness up by 65 per cent, lack of connectedness 53 per cent, alcohol use 48 per cent, drug use 44 per cent, anxiety 62 per cent, and depression 64 per cent.

Overall, an “alarming” 49 per cent of respondents reported a great degree of loneliness.

The team of researchers hopes that the results will now be used to guide intervention efforts.

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Published on November 17, 2020

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