By Mansur Shaheen U.S. Assistant Health Editor for Dailymail.Com
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused symptoms of depression in large numbers of Americans, a new study finds.
Researchers from Intermountain Healthcare System, a Salt Lake City-based system that serves much of the Rocky Mountain region, interviewed patients at their facilities about mental health status before and during the pandemic.
They found that Americans who were depressed before the pandemic started their symptoms got worse.
The team also found that depression can have a negative impact on a person’s health, with depressed patients 2.8 times more likely to go to an emergency room due to anxiety.
About 40% of people reported symptoms of depression when examined by doctors at the Intermountain Healthcare System during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those who suffered from depression before the pandemic reported that their symptoms had worsened (file photo)
“These results are significant,” said Dr. Heidi May, the study’s lead researcher and cardiovascular epidemiologist at Intermountain, in a statement.
“Looking at the first year of the pandemic, we can already see the implications for our patients’ mental health.”
Patients treated at Intermountain Health completed a post-treatment depression screening survey.
Researchers who presented their results at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions on Saturday collected data from 4,633 of these screenings, which were completed between March 2019 and April 2021.
The data was split into two groups, one for patients treated in February 2020 or earlier – the pre-pandemic group – and those screened in March 2020 or later – the pandemic group.
The research team found that 40 percent of patients in the pandemic period reported symptoms of depression, many of which were new symptoms that they had not previously reported.
Patients who reported struggling with depressive symptoms prior to the pandemic also said those symptoms had worsened.
Researchers say this shows that people’s quality of life has deteriorated during the pandemic and this needs to be taken into account by doctors.
“Doctors should be fully aware of their patients’ mental health so that it can be addressed and treated immediately to improve the overall quality of life and hopefully avoid developing health problems later in the future,” May said.
“This is vital as the pandemic is not over yet.”
The surge in cases of depression could also create more health problems for patients across the board, something else that doctors should be aware of.
“We already know that depression increases a person’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease and other chronic health problems, so this is very worrying and underscores the importance of screening patients and allocating mental health resources to that they need, “May said.
People with depression are at increased risk for heart disease, according to the National Institutes of Health, although the exact cause cannot be determined.
Experts have found that heart disease often causes depression because the two diseases feed each other.
Intermountain researchers also found that people who reported symptoms of depression were also more likely to struggle with anxiety.
Depression sufferers were 2.8 times more likely to go to the emergency room because of symptoms of anxiety than those who did not have the condition.
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an increase in mental health issues across America as many have struggled to cope with the grief over the pandemic and the disturbances in daily life.
A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation earlier this year also found that 40 percent of all adults suffered from depression or anxiety during the pandemic.
The same survey found that 56 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 24 had any of the mental disorders.