COVID-19 Pandemic and Depression

In 2019, the world was introduced to a new virus known as Sars-COV2 and more commonly COVID-19 creating a deadly world-wide pandemic. By early 2020, the majority of the world was sent into lockdown as an extreme measure to prevent the spread of the virus. Now, there are still many things that we do not know about the COVID-19 virus. As the virus continues to mutate to different variants, the battle against the pandemic continues. Long-term effects of the infection and the pandemic are still becoming evident. One of the outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic is a dramatic rising of anxiety and depression rates within the United States (Luo et al., 2020).

For many people who are predisposed to anxiety and depression, the onset of new symptoms during a pandemic may seem obvious. Though many who have never experienced anxiety and depression, there has also been an increase in diagnosis. This is in part due to fear of the illness in general. Many people alive today have not faced a pandemic to the magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused over 230 million infections and 4.8 million deaths worldwide (World Health Organization [WHO], 2021). Given the magnitude of illness, the high infection rate and the associated death toll from the illness, has created a fear throughout the world of contracting the new illness (Talbot et al., 2021).

Secondly, social distancing has been used as a key measure to preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. This also includes periods of quarantine if one were to get sick or have potentially contracted the illness. People were encouraged or mandated to stay away from friends and family, especially if a loved one was considered a high-risk individual for complications from a COVID-19 infection (Fauteux, 2021). Many people began to work from home or not be able to work at all which further lead to the feeling of isolation. Furthermore, people have been kept from dying loved ones within the hospital, leading to a vast number of people struggling with feeling closure and guilt over the death of family members.

Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic not only instilled fear of healthcare and strain on social relationships, but it also often caused economic hardships. Many individuals lost jobs as shut-downs closed businesses across the nation (Urbieta et al., 2021). People who worked in positions with large public interactions, such as restaurants and entertainment, were forced out of jobs- at least for a time being. Many of these particular jobs were held by the lower income working class so the impact was grave. It has long been established that economic strain is a contributor to anxiety and depression.

As we continue to learn more about the long-term effects of the COVID-19 infection and the pandemic, we are seeing many studies looking at the outcomes of depression and anxiety on those who suffer a COVID-19 infection (Luo et al., 2020). Those who have co-morbidities associated with depression or anxiety, such as substance abuse or tobacco use, are noted to have worse outcomes from COVID-19 infections. This is due to the added strain on lung function, the immune system and the cardiovascular system that these illnesses cause. Furthermore, there are noted increased rates of depression and suicide in people who have actually been infected with COVID-19. The cause of this increase is not known, though it is being studied if the COVID-19 virus may affect neurological function that leads to high depression onset.

Though there are many things we are still learning about the COVID-19 virus and the effects of the long-lasting pandemic, healthcare providers need to begin paying close attention to the mental health of their patients. As we enter into the second year of COVID-19 efforts and face further potential restrictions as new variants surge, knowing that anxiety and depression may worsen is important to recognize. It is particularly important to evaluate patients who have actually endured a COVID-19 infection for risk of depression or anxiety.

Thank you to all the professionals assisting with this pandemic.

Fauteux, N. (2021). COVID-19: Impact on nurses and nursing. AJN, American Journal of Nursing, 121(5), 19–21. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.naj.0000751076.87046.19

Luo, M., Guo, L., Yu, M., Jiang, W., & Wang, H. (2020). The psychological and mental impact of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) on medical staff and General Public – A systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychiatry Research, 291. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2020.113190

Talbot, L. A., Metter, E. J., & King, H. (2021). History of the military Nurse Corps and the 1918 influenza pandemic: Lessons for the 2019 coronavirus pandemic. Military Medicine, 186(1-2), 27–32. https://doi.org/10.1093/milmed/usaa544

Urbieta, D. A., Akin, J. L., Hamilton, W. M., Brock, W. W., & Yablonsky, A. M. (2021). We’re stronger together: A collaboration to support military families during the COVID-19 pandemic. Military Medicine, 186(S2), 23–34. https://doi.org/10.1093/milmed/usab213

World Health Organization. (n.d.). WHO coronavirus (COVID-19) dashboard. Coronavirus (COVID-19) Dashboard. Retrieved October 16, 2021, from https://covid19.who.int/.