The study is the first to assess the impact of the pandemic on clinical depression and anxiety problems, broken down by age, gender, and location in 204 countries and territories in 2020.
The results show that in 2020, depression increased by 28%, while anxiety increased by 26%.
“This underscores the urgent need to strengthen health systems,” said the study’s lead author, Damien Santomauro, from the Center for Mental Health Research in Queensland, Australia.
“Even before the pandemic, mental health systems in most countries were under-resourced and unregulated. Responding to this additional demand would be difficult, but impossible to ignore,” he added.
Women and youth
Women were affected more than men, and young people were more affected than the elderly.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated many of the inequalities and social determinants of mental illness. Unfortunately, for many reasons, women have been hardest hit by the social and economic consequences of this pandemic,” said study co-author Alize Ferrari.
“School closures and other major restrictions have limited young people’s ability to learn and interact with their peers, which, along with increased unemployment risks, has affected young people’s mental health,” he added.
The study results therefore suggest that the countries most affected by the pandemic in 2020 are those with the largest increase in the prevalence of mental health problems.
However, the authors acknowledge that the study was limited by a lack of reliable data from important regions of the world, particularly those in low- and middle-income countries. (With information from AFP)