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Mental Health Burden Up for Racial, Ethnic Minorities During Pandemic

Positive screens for depression or anxiety more likely for racial/ethnic minorities well into the pandemic

MONDAY, Aug. 15, 2022 (HealthDay News) — The negative impact on mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic has been greater for members of racial and ethnic minorities than for White individuals, according to a study published online Aug. 10 in PLOS ONE.

Long H. Nguyen, M.D., from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and colleagues evaluated differences in odds of screening positive for depression and anxiety among various racial and ethnic groups during the latter phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. The analysis included 691,473 participants nested within the prospective smartphone-based COVID Symptom Study in the United States and United Kingdom from Feb. 23, 2021, to June 9, 2021.

The researchers found that in the United States, screening positive for depression was more likely in Black (odds ratio, 1.16), Hispanic (odds ratio, 1.23), and Asian (odds ratio, 1.15) participants versus White participants after accounting for prior history of a mental health disorder, COVID-19 infection status, and lockdown stringency. Similar patterns were seen for positive screens for anxiety; positive screens for depression and anxiety were also more likely among racial/ethnic populations in the United Kingdom. Changes in leisure-time activities did not fully explain the observed disparities.

“Racial/ethnic minorities bore a disproportionate mental health burden during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the authors write. “These differences will need to be considered as health care systems transition from prioritizing infection control to mitigating long-term consequences.”

Several authors are employees of Zoe Global Ltd., which provided support for the study.

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