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Prior Poor Mental Health Tied to More COVID-19 Infections

Findings for county-level indicators of mental health in 2019 and county-level infection rates

MONDAY, Nov. 8, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Prior rates of poor mental health at a county level are associated with a higher burden of COVID-19 infection, according to a study published online Oct. 31 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Yusuf Ransome, Dr.P.H., from the Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, Connecticut, and colleagues examined the association between prior prevalence of poor mental health at the area level and subsequent rates of COVID-19 infections. Analysis included mental health data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (2,839 U.S. counties), as well as cumulative COVID-19 infection rates between Jan. 22 and Oct. 7, 2020, per 100,000 people.

The researchers found that 77 percent of U.S. counties experienced significant increases in the average number of poor mental health days, including depression, stress, and problems with emotions, between 2010 and 2019. A higher number of poor mental health days in 2019 was positively associated with higher COVID-19 infection rates (relative risk ratio, 1.059). However, change in mental health over time was not significantly associated with COVID-19 rates.

“Interventions that improve well-being and strengthen mental health systems at the community and other geographic levels are needed to address post-COVID mental health problems,” the authors write.

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