Representative image
Representative image | Photo Credit: Archana Jagannath@Chennai

One year into the Covid-19 pandemic, a study found that more than 1 in 5 US adults reported probable depression in both spring 2020 and spring 2021. It also stated that financial assets helped reduce the persistence of symptoms – but only to a point.

The conclusions were drawn from a national study in March 2020 measuring mental health and assets. Covid-19 was a national emergency, as deaths were on the rise. Schools, workplaces and government offices closed as Americans were urged to stay home.

At that time, it was found that 27.8 per cent of US adults in the study reported symptoms of depression, such as losing interest in activities or feeling down or hopeless. This number was over three times as high as the national pre-pandemic depression estimate of 8.5 per cent.

A year into the pandemic, depression rates remained high, despite hopeful signs of reducing infections and deaths. In April 2021, people were lining up for Covid-19 vaccine shots, doctors were finding better Covid-19 treatments and efforts to reopen society were under way. But by that point, the share of adults in the survey reporting symptoms of depression had gone up to 32.8 per cent.

Worse yet, that higher 2021 number included 20.3 per cent who had reported symptoms of depression both in April 2020 and in April 2021. This finding suggests that poor mental health driven by the pandemic was both prevalent and persistent.

It was also stated that people who came into the pandemic with relatively few assets – especially financial ones – were more likely to be affected by Covid-19-related stresses.

In the April 2021 follow-up survey, it was found that people in households earning less than $20,000 a year were 3.5 times as likely to report persistent depression symptoms as those making $75,000.

Also, people who had $5,000 or more in savings or a bank account reported less persistent depression. Having more assets, however, did not reduce the depression-inducing stress of losing a job, suffering relationship problems or experiencing financial difficulties during the pandemic.

Why it matters

Nearly 1 million US lives have been lost to Covid-19, and there have been almost 5 million hospitalisations. But measuring the effect of the pandemic on the nation’s mental health is just beginning. Experts believe the pandemic’s sustained impact on the nation’s mental health is unprecedented.