International researchers estimate 76 million extra cases of anxiety and 53 million extra cases of depression as a result of the Covid crisis - with women and younger people the hardest hit.
According to a recent study, published in The Lancet, there was a dramatic increase in global cases of anxiety and depression around the world during 2020, demonstrating that the pandemic has dramatically worsened mental health on a global scale.
In the first study of its kind exploring the impact of the crisis on mental disorders in 204 countries by age, gender and location, researchers found that cases of major depressive disorders were 28 per cent higher worldwide in 2020 than would have been expected had the crisis not happened, while anxiety disorders were 26 per cent higher.
The international team of researchers, with the lead author from the University of Queensland in Australia, drew on 48 studies published between 1 January 2020 and 29 January 2021, including data about levels of depressive and anxiety disorders in 204 countries before and during the Covid pandemic. It then analysed how these changes in case rates related to pandemic markers, such as daily infection rate and human mobility, and created a model to extrapolate the change in cases from before to during the pandemic by age, sex and location.
The two groups hardest hit by the pandemic were women and younger people, the study found. Around two-thirds of the extra cases of depression and 68 per cent of the extra cases of anxiety were among women.
“We believe that is because women are more likely to be affected by the social and economic consequences of the pandemic,” said Dr Damian Santomauro, lead author from the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research at the University of Queensland. “Women are more likely to take on additional carer and household responsibilities due to school closures or family members becoming unwell.” He added that a rise in domestic violence may also play a role.
Meanwhile extra global cases of depression and anxiety were highest among people aged 20 to 24 years old - with lack of interaction with their peers, school closures and fear of unemployment among the major factors contributing to this.
The authors of the study hope that their research can inform decision-making among governments and policy-makers, adding that the pandemic has placed a large burden on mental health systems that were already struggling to cope.
“We have to seriously re-evaluate how we respond to the mental health needs of the population moving forward,” said Santomauro.
If you are affected by the issues raised here, or are seeking mental health support, you can find help in your local area here on this website.