• Wednesday, June 12, 2024
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BusinessDay

Covid-19 increased anxiety, depression by 25%, study shows

Africa’s COVID infections 97 times larger than reported cases – WHO

The global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by 25 percent during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, a study has shown.

The study highlights the unexpected stress caused by the social isolation resulting from the pandemic as one of the major triggers for the increase.

The scientific study released by the World Health Organization (WHO)also showed that fatigue impacted people’s ability to work, seek support from loved ones and engage in their communities.

Loneliness; fear of infection, suffering and death for oneself and for loved ones; grief after bereavement and financial worries have also been cited as stressors leading to anxiety and depression.

Among health workers, exhaustion has been a major trigger for suicidal thinking.

The brief, which is informed by a comprehensive review of existing evidence about the impact of COVID-19 on mental health and mental health services, and includes estimates from the latest Global Burden of Disease study, shows that the pandemic has affected the mental health of young people and that they are disproportionally at risk of suicidal and self-harming behaviours.

Women were more affected than men

It also indicates that women have been more severely impacted than men and that people with pre-existing physical health conditions such as asthma, cancer and heart disease, were more likely to develop symptoms of mental disorders.

Data suggests that people with pre-existing mental disorders do not appear to be disproportionately vulnerable to COVID-19 infection.

Yet, when these people do become infected, they are more likely to suffer hospitalisation, severe illness and death compared with people without mental disorders. People with more severe mental disorders, such as psychoses, and young people with mental disorders, are particularly at risk.

This increase in the prevalence of mental health problems has coincided with severe disruptions to mental health services, leaving huge gaps in care for those who need it most.

Mental health services disrupted

For much of the pandemic, services for mental, neurological and substance use conditions were the most disrupted among all essential health services reported by WHO Member States.

Many countries also reported major disruptions in life-saving services for mental health, including for suicide prevention.

By the end of 2021 the situation had somewhat improved but today too many people remain unable to get the care and support they need for both pre-existing and newly developed mental health conditions.

Unfortunately, the situation underscores a chronic global shortage of mental health resources that continues today. WHO’s most recent Mental Health Atlas showed that in 2020, governments worldwide spent on average just over 2 percent of their health budgets on mental health and many low-income countries reported having fewer than one mental health worker per 100 000 people.

Dévora Kestel, director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Use at WHO said “While the pandemic has generated interest in and concern for mental health, it has also revealed historical under-investment in mental health services. Countries must act urgently to ensure that mental health support is available to all”.