There’s a Pandemic of Depression

New data shows depression rates are high and the burden falls disproportionately on people already at risk

Alexandra Sifferlin
Medium Coronavirus Blog
3 min readSep 2, 2020

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Silhouette of a young person bringing their hand up to cover their face
Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash

The coronavirus pandemic is an ongoing trauma for people around the world, and new data reveals that the rising rates of depression are especially high for people already at risk for severe economic stress.

A new study published Wednesday in JAMA Network Open and led by researchers at Boston University School of Public Health reports that the prevalence of depression symptoms among American adults has risen more than threefold during the Covid-19 pandemic. Having a lower income, having less than $5,000 in savings, and having exposure to stressors like job loss and death of a loved one from Covid-19 were all associated with a greater risk for depression during the pandemic.

The researchers compared results from a survey of depression symptom prevalence from about 1,440 people during Covid-19 to the responses of over 5,000 people from before the pandemic. Specifically, they found that the prevalence of depression symptoms increased from 8.5% before Covid-19 to 27.8% during the pandemic.

The study structure has limitations because the two surveys are not of the same people, though they are considered comparable groups. Even so, the findings are in line with other research on the mental health impact of Covid-19, as well as trends in depression rates from prior national and international crises.

Being in a lower income bracket and having less than $5,000 in household savings was associated with a 50% greater risk of having symptoms of depression during the pandemic. This suggests that people who were already at an economic disadvantage are experiencing a substantial mental health burden.

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Alexandra Sifferlin
Medium Coronavirus Blog

Health and science journalist. Former editor of Medium’s Covid-19 Blog and deputy editor at Elemental. TIME Magazine writer before that