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Minimal Change in Mental Health Linked to COVID-19

In general population studies, no change observed in general mental health or anxiety symptoms; minimal worsening seen in depression symptoms

By Elana Gotkine HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, March 9, 2023 (HealthDay News) — Evidence suggests that the change in general mental health, anxiety symptoms, and depression symptoms related to COVID-19 were minimal, according to a review published online March 8 in The BMJ.

Ying Sun, M.P.H., from the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, and colleagues conducted a systematic review of studies comparing general mental health, anxiety symptoms, or depression symptoms assessed from Jan. 1, 2020, or later to outcomes obtained from Jan. 1, 2018, to Dec. 31, 2019, in any population. A total of 137 unique studies from 134 cohorts were reviewed; most studies came from high-income or upper-middle-income countries (77 and 20 percent, respectively).

The researchers observed no changes for general mental health or anxiety symptoms among general population studies, but depression symptoms worsened minimally (standardized mean differencechange, 0.12). General mental health, anxiety symptoms, and depression symptoms worsened by minimal-to-small amounts among women or female participants (0.22, 0.20, and 0.22, respectively). In 27 other analyses among subgroups other than women or female participants, five and two analyses suggested worsening of symptoms by minimal or small amounts and minimal or small improvements, respectively. Symptoms were unchanged from pre-COVID-19 levels in three studies with data from March to April 2020 and late 2020, or they increased initially then returned to pre-COVID-19 levels.

“Across population groups, results suggest that, rather than a mental health crisis, at a population level there has been a high level of resilience during COVID-19, and changes in general mental health, anxiety symptoms, and depression symptoms have been minimal to small with no changes detected in most analyses,” the authors write.

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