‘Alarming’ COVID-19 study shows 80% of people have strong depression

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In a new study, researchers looked at how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted young US adults’ loneliness and found “strong depressive symptoms” in 80% of participants.

Over 1,000 Americans aged 18-35 took part in the online survey, which also asked the subjects to report on their anxiety and substance use.

The researchers found that “alarming” levels of loneliness are linked to big mental health issues, as about 61% of respondents reporting moderate (45%) to severe (17%) anxiety.

Meanwhile, 30% of interviewees disclosed harmful levels of drinking. And, although only 22% of the respondents reported using drugs, 38% of these reported severe drug use.

Therefore, a response with mental health care provision is “imperative”, says the team.

The research was conducted by a team from the University of Miami.

The online, 126-item, national survey was carried out between April 22 and May 11. 1,008 participants took part.

Each symptom (loneliness, anxiety, depression, alcohol use, drug use) was measured against internationally recognized scoring systems.

To examine the links between loneliness and the mental health conditions highlighted, the researchers used a model that looked at the direct effects of both loneliness and social connectedness on depression, anxiety, alcohol use, and drug use.

They also looked at the indirect effects of loneliness and social connectedness on alcohol and drug use working through anxiety and depression.

The results show that most participants who reported an increase in feelings of loneliness also indicated an increase in drinking (58%), drug use (56%), anxiety (76%), and depression (78%), and a decrease in feelings of connectedness (58%).

Looking at general increases of mental health issues or substance use due to the pandemic, most issues were recorded by participants as rising, with their feelings of loneliness going up by 65%, lack of connectedness 53%, alcohol use 48%, drug use 44%, anxiety 62%, and depression 64%.

Overall, an “alarming” 49% of respondents reported a great degree of loneliness.

Most respondents (80%) reported drinking alcohol, with 30% revealing harmful and dependent levels of drinking.

19% of respondents reported binge drinking at least weekly and 44% reported binging at least monthly.

The team hopes that the results will now be used to guide intervention efforts.

One author of the study is Professor Viviana Horigian.

The study is published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.

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