How Has The Covid-19 Pandemic Affected The Behavioral Health Of People?

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History has it that the mental impact of disasters outlasts the physical effect. Today’s mental health needs are likely to continue beyond the virus outbreak. Interestingly, throughout the world, people are being informed about the physical impacts of Covid-19, managing symptoms, and the steps to prevent exposure to the virus. However, not much attention has been paid to the pandemic’s effect on a person’s mental health. While all efforts are directed towards understanding the epidemiology, features, and transmission patterns of the virus, very little is done to understand the effect on one’s mental health.

The Covid-19 pandemic and its resulting outcomes, including job loss and recession, have negatively impacted mental health. The pandemic will have many short- and long-term implications on the mental health of people. A study conducted on the psychological toll on health care workers during outbreaks found that the distress they have experienced can last up to three years. A May 2020 analysis highlighted that the economic downturn and social isolation would lead to suicide, excessive alcohol usage, and drug abuse till 2029.

What is the impact of the virus on the mental health of people?

About 4 in 10 adults have reported anxiety or depressive disorder symptoms since the beginning of the pandemic. A poll conducted in 2020 also highlighted that many adults had reported specific negative impacts on their mental health. The poll highlighted 36% had difficulty in sleeping, 12% experienced an increase in alcohol and drug consumption. All the above impacts are associated with worry and stress over the coronavirus attack.

What are the causes of such a high impact on people?

Mental health experts have linked the increase in psychological distress to the measures taken to limit the spread of the virus. The rapid transmission of the Covid-19 through human‐to‐human contact has resulted in the enforcement of multiple restrictions and lockdowns to curb the further spread of the disease. Closure of educational institutes, workplaces, public places, social distancing has forced people to stay in their homes and isolated. These restrictive measures have affected the social and mental health of individuals.

Quarantine and isolation are likely to harm one’s mental health. A review published in The Lancet highlighted that loss of freedom, separation from our families, and uncertainty could deteriorate an individual’s mental health status. Under the current situation, people of all age groups and sections of society are experiencing a mix of emotions. They are in a position that can potentially damage their physical and mental health.

Enforced lockdowns, restrictions on social gatherings, disruption of services, and suspension of various activities have been identified as factors triggering mental health disorders. These restrictions combined with a constant fear of contracting the virus, insecurities, loneliness, and lifestyle changes have had a massive impact on the psychosocial well-being of the general population.

How various age groups have been affected:

Children: Children are away from their school and friends since the outbreak. They can experience anxiety and distress, affecting their mental health, including excessive crying, depression, lack of concentration, changes in eating habits, and annoying behavior. However, the involvement of parents in healthy activities with their children can help reduce stress and bring a sense of relief to the overall situation.

Young adults: 56% of young adults (aged 18-24) have reported anxiety and depressive disorder symptoms during the pandemic. Compared to the rest, young adults are more likely to fall victim to substance abuse and suicidal thoughts. Some cases have severe outcomes which need to be addressed by legacy behavioral health baton rouge centers.

Older adults: Older adults are more vulnerable due to both clinical and social reasons. According to medical experts, people aged 60 or above are more likely to get the virus which can develop into a life‐threatening condition. Physical isolation has put the elderly at serious mental health risk, with 29.3% reporting symptoms of stress and anxiety. The World Health Organization has suggested that young family members regularly check on older people, and younger members should talk to older people and become involved in their daily routines.

Are people with mental health disorders at greater risk?

A small-scale study in China highlighted higher anxiety, stress, and insomnia symptoms among people with other psychiatric disorders than individuals without such conditions. Similarly, a study in Australia showed higher psychological distress and mood disorders among mental health disorders.

Impact on mental health is as vital as physical health.

The psychological state of an individual varies from person to person. The increase in mental health concerns across the globe is evidence of a psychiatric epidemic co-occurring with the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, leading public health organizations have released information, suggestions, and guidelines addressing the mental health of the general populations and high-risk groups. Given the pandemic’s impact, 20% of adults reporting anxiety symptoms have not received any counseling or therapy in the past month due to the imposed restrictions. Professor Tiago Correia highlighted in his editorial that health systems are focusing exclusively on fighting the outbreak, which can have a dramatic effect on other diseases, including mental health, which exacerbates during the pandemic. The pandemic has worsened the already lacking access to mental health care and treatment.

Looking ahead:

A pandemic is more than a medical emergency; it causes several disruptions amongst the people and society. A systematic examination of the population’s mental health during the pandemic found a significant rise in anxiety, stress, and depression. In addition, studies have also highlighted an increase in dangerous coping strategies, which includes higher alcohol, tobacco, and drug consumption. Studies describing the mental health impact of the pandemic on the general population have led us to conclude that understanding the effects of the outbreak on mental health and addressing it is as vital as knowing its clinical features, transmission patterns, etc.

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