How COVID-19 pandemic can harm your mental health

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In a new study from the Intermountain Healthcare Heart Institute, researchers found depression remained common during the pandemic and worsened for some people.

They examined the records of 4,633 people at a large health care system in Utah who were screened for depression during a primary care visit.

They completed a questionnaire before the pandemic and again during. Nearly 4 in 10 people reported new or continuing depression in the first year of the pandemic.

Participants with depression reported an increase in symptoms during the pandemic – with 1.9% visiting an emergency room for anxiety versus 0.6% of people without depression.

After accounting for differences in demographics and other risk factors, people with depression had nearly three times the odds of going to the ER for anxiety than those without depression.

The team also found people with depression tended to be younger and female. They also were more likely to be smokers.

A broader national study released in March showed the percentage of adults with recent symptoms of a depressive disorder increased from 24.5% in August 2020 to 30.2% in December.

The team said it was important to identify people with depression because it’s a strong risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

And if people are becoming more depressed because of the pandemic, in a few years, there will be a higher incidence of heart disease.

The study also highlights the importance of depression prevention. That starts with basic acts of self-care, such as eating healthy food, getting enough sleep and staying physically active.

Whether walking around the block or going on a bike ride, activity sends important signals that will not only help your sleep but will almost certainly help your mood.

Finding someone to talk to about symptoms of distress can be helpful. Whether it’s a friend, family member or a professional, in a socially isolated time, it ends up being really important.

Medications also can help. Depression is pretty clearly established as a medical condition that has effective treatments.

If you care about depression, please read studies about antipsychotics for depression may come with higher death risk and findings of your immune system may fight against depression.

For more information about depression and your health, please see recent studies about your heart rate could reliably show your depression risk and results showing that 9 high blood pressure drugs could lower depression risk.

The study was presented at the American Heart Association’s virtual Scientific Sessions. One author of the study is Heidi May.

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