Tuesday, July 21, 2020

COVID-19 Fear, Food Insecurity May Worsen Depressive Symptoms, Survey Finds

The COVID-19 pandemic has created significant fear and stress for people around the world. A report in Depression & Anxiety now describes how COVID-19-related fear and food insecurity are likely contributing to higher levels of depression in U.S. adults.

“Early reports coming out of China, Europe, and North America confirm significant mental health consequences tied to heightened levels of fear, perceived health risks, and an overwhelming sense of dread that [are] tied to dramatic increases in virus‐related morbidity and mortality around the world,” wrote Kevin M. Fitzpatrick, Ph.D., of the University of Arkansas and colleagues.

The report by Fitzpatrick and colleagues focused on the responses of thousands of U.S. adults to an online survey in late March. The survey included questions about the respondents’ depressive symptoms (based on the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale, or CES‐D), fear of COVID-19 (on a scale of 0-10), access to healthy food, and physical symptoms. The respondents were also asked questions about their employment status, how connected they felt to others in their social network, the extent to which they felt in control of factors impacting their lives, and more.

Of the nearly 10,368 adults surveyed (average age 47 years), 19% reported they were unemployed, laid off, or furloughed. The authors noted that a CES-D score of 16 is considered the cutoff for depression; the average CES‐D score of the respondents was 16.9, and 28% of respondents had scores higher than 25. Respondents on average rated their fear as a 7 on a scale of 0-10; nearly 30% rated their fear of COVID-19 at 8 or above.

Respondents who identified as female, single, Hispanic, and/or not working reported higher depressive symptoms than other respondents. Those with higher levels of COVID‐19 fear and moderate-to-high levels of food insecurity reported more depressive symptoms than people with less fear and low or no food insecurity. In contrast, respondents who expressed greater optimism, control over factors impacting their lives, and greater connection with others reported fewer depressive symptoms.

The “results highlight the significance of vulnerability and individual stressors in the wake of the COVID‐19 pandemic,” Fitzpatrick and colleagues wrote. “In addition, the analysis affirms the importance of access to social and psychological resources to combat heightened fear and anxiety that persons report during the current pandemic.”

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Have You Thought About Running for APA Office? Help Steer APA’s Future
Nominate yourself or a colleague

As chair of APA’s Nominating Committee, Immediate Past President Bruce Schwartz, M.D., is seeking to diversify the elected leadership of APA and invites all members to consider running for one of the open Board of Trustee offices in APA’s 2021 election: president-elect; secretary; early-career psychiatrist trustee-at-large; minority/underrepresented representative trustee; Area 1, 4, and 7 trustees; and resident-fellow member trustee-elect. You may nominate yourself or a colleague—the important point is that you get involved! The deadline is Tuesday, September 1.

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