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Study: Covid has caused dramatic rise in anxiety, depression

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Cases of depression and anxiety went up by more than a quarter worldwide in 2020 due to Covid-19, shows a study.

Cases of major depression and anxiety around the world increased dramatically in 2020 due to the Covid-19 crisis, according to the first global estimate of the impact of the pandemic on mental health.

The study, published in the Lancet medical journal, is the latest to suggest the pandemic has taken a serious toll on mental health, with an estimated 76 million extra cases of anxiety and 53 million extra cases of major depressive disorder than would have been expected had Covid not struck.

In 2020, cases of major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders increased by 28% and 26%, respectively. Women were affected more than men, and younger people were more affected than older age groups, according to the recent study.

Countries with high Covid-19 infection rates and major reductions in the movement of people – a consequence of measures such as lockdowns and school closures – had the greatest increases in prevalence of major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders.

The head of the research group from the Queensland Center for Mental Health Research, School of Public Health, University of Queensland, Australia, said, “This study is the first to quantify the prevalence and burden of depressive and anxiety disorders by age, sex, and location globally in 204 countries and territories in 2020.”

Women and young people are more likely to be affected than men or older people. The study showed that almost 52 million of the added cases for anxiety during the first Covid year were accounted for among women, contrasted with 24 million for men.

“We believe [that] is because women are more likely to be affected by the social and economic consequences of the pandemic,” said the lead author, Dr. Damian Santomauro of the University of Queensland.

“Women are more likely to take on additional career and household responsibilities due to school closures or family members becoming unwell. Women also tend to have lower salaries, less savings, and less secure employment than men, and so are more likely to be financially disadvantaged during the pandemic,” he said, adding a rise in domestic violence may also play a role.

Although Covid caused more death and serious illness among older people, it was younger people who faced the greatest burdens of depression and anxiety.  

The category with the highest burden, the 20 to 24-year age bracket, had an estimated 1,118 added depression cases per 100,000 people, and 1,331 more per 100,000 for anxiety.

“School closures and wider restrictions limiting young people’s ability to learn and interact with their peers, combined with the increased risk of unemployment, also meant that young people were also more heavily impacted by major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders during the pandemic,” says Alize Ferrari, one of the University of Queensland researchers.

“We are hoping that these findings encourage more dialogue by policy makers, governments, researchers and people considering resource allocation and planning for mental health responses…. It is crucial that policymakers take underlying factors such as these into account as part of measures to strengthen mental health services,” he added.

Brazil surpasses 600,000 Covid-19 deaths

Brazil has become the second country in the world to pass 600,000 Covid-19 deaths, the country’s Health Ministry said.

The South American country registered 615 new deaths on Friday, as well as 18,000 cases in the previous 24 hours.

The country with 213 million populations has also recorded over 21.5 million cases of the deadly virus so far.

Despite the high number of affected, there are now signs that infections and Covid-related deaths in Brazil are finally declining, as the country ramps up vaccinations after a slow start.

More than 70% of Brazilians have received a first dose while about 46% are fully immunized, compared to 65% in the United States, which passed 600,000 deaths in June.

Meanwhile, Brazil's Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga said on Friday the country has already acquired, or is in advanced talks to secure, around 350 million vaccine doses for 2022.

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