Anxiety and depression are rising due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a recent study, job or income loss is the central problem.
The potential central causes of anxiety and depression amidst the pandemic were revealed by researchers at the University of Connecticut. They found that financial concerns spiked anxiety cases, and job insecurity spiked depression cases in the US. Those associations were deemed independent after accounting COVID-19 and other factors. They published their findings in the Journal of Occupational Environmental Medicine.
The Widespread Impact of COVID-19 on Mental Health
Because the pandemic forced many businesses to close, millions of workers worldwide have lost their jobs. While there are job openings here and there, the diversity is narrow to take in all displaced workers. As such, numerous people are suffering from financial or job loss. The majority of these individuals are barely surviving everyday situations. Those who survived one day are bombarded by worry on how to survive the next morning.
According to Statista, a German portal for statistics, the impact of the pandemic on mental health has been widespread in the past several months. In a survey by The Commonwealth Fund on 8,259 individuals in multiple countries, much experienced anxiety, sadness, and stress. The US had the highest share of affected respondents at 33%. It was followed by Canada at 26%, the UK at 26%, France at 24%, Australia at 23%, New Zealand at 23%, Sweden at 18%, the Netherlands at 14%, and Norway at 10%.
Meanwhile, the reports from three major US agencies showed the difference in the rates of anxiety and depression in two periods. Back in January to June 2019, 8.2% reported anxiety, 6.6% reported depression, and 11% reported either anxiety or depression. By May 14 to 19, 2020, 28.2% reported anxiety, 24.4% reported depression, and 33.9% reported either anxiety or depression. The figures highlighted the spike in rates due to hopelessness and worry.
And finally, prescriptions for mental health conditions increased in the US. A survey by Express Scripts revealed a 34.1% increase in anti-anxiety, 18.6% in anti-depression, and 14.8% in anti-insomnia prescriptions. These numbers were based on a sample of over 31.5 million commercially-insured individuals. The coverage of the figures was between the week ending on February 15 and the week ending on March 16, 2020.
Job Insecurity Linked to Anxiety and Depression
Other studies focused on COVID-19-related anxiety and depression showed unemployment as a big factor. However, those studies have been more inclined to those who already lost their jobs. So, a team of researchers investigated another angle, wherein anxiety and depression were analyzed in those who are still employed. Even though they remain in the game, the risk of losing their jobs persists.
"The impact the virus and the pandemic are having on the economy and employment is not surprisingly taking a big toll," said Natalie J. Shook, an author of the study and social psychologist at Connecticut, quoted US magazine Psychology Today.
Researchers tracked down around 1,000 people in the US and more than 18 surveys, which were conducted since March. They examined the behavioral practices, feelings, and general wellbeing of those individuals. They looked for the associations between job or income loss and anxiety or depression. And based on results, employed workers had a higher rate of anxiety than unemployed workers over income insecurity. The employed workers were aware that situations might change in an instant. That awareness reflected their insecurity.
Furthermore, researchers asked participants if they were feeling anxious, nervous, on edge, or unable to stop their worries. They also asked participants about their financial concerns, financial situations over the next year, food security over the next year, and housing security over the next 12 months. The majority expressed their concern about the pandemic's effects on their current employment. They expressed worries that they could lose their jobs.
Researchers explained that job loss due to a global crisis is not new. However, their study suggested that higher financial concern was linked to greater anxiety. While higher job insecurity was linked to greater depression. Either financial concern or job insecurity would cause one of the two most common mental health conditions. And if employers could do nothing to save their employees, then displaced workers would be prone to extreme fear or sadness.
Brookings Institution, an American research group, confirmed the unemployment rates in the US. The rates due to COVID-19 were staggering than the levels since the Great Depression. A representative survey to 5,500 respondents between April 22 and May 12, 2020, was conducted. Around 25% of White, 17% of Black, 27% of Hispanic, and 21% of other ancestries reported income or job loss. About 41% of US adults aged 18 to 24 years, 27% of aged 25 to 34 years, 25% of aged 35 to 44 years, 23% of aged 45 to 54 years, and 17% of aged 55 years and older reported the same outcome.
The survey reflected the impact of COVID-19 on employment and income. But how intense did the pandemic influence a household's ability to make ends meet? The survey measured that by comparing hardships between job loss and no loss. Among those with job or income loss, 15% had problems with rent or mortgage, 20% had problems paying other bills, 13% had problems with medical care, 10% had problems filling a prescription, and 29% had problems with food security, which scored the highest. Among those without loss, 5% reported problems with rent or mortgage, 9% had problems paying other bills, 5% had problems with medical care, 4% had problems filling a prescription, and 16% had problems with food security.
Lots of families worldwide are facing hardships due to the economic impact of COVID-19. Some of these families are facing it for the first time, while others are experiencing such hardships to a whole new level. But if governments and companies work together, they can help mitigate the economic pains of this pandemic.