Doctors say these pandemic side effects are serious problems — and unlikely ‘to go away anytime soon.’
Although the virus may be diminishing, the long-term effects of the pandemic may affect people for a long time to come, both mentally and physically.
The pandemic has shaped more than two years of our lives, canceling plans, upending livelihoods, and causing feelings of grief, stress, and anxiety. Cedars-Sinai mental health experts say the “pandemic may be shaping our mental health far into the future.”
Many forms of medical screenings ground to a halt when Covid hit, so some doctors today are diagnosing more advanced forms of cancer, diabetes and other chronic conditions than they did pre-Covid. The same delays in treatment, plus a wide variety of pandemic stressors, have also led to more diagnoses of mood, anxiety and substance-abuse disorders.
According to a scientific brief released by The World Health Organization (WHO): In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic alone, the global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by a massive 25%.
Reason for the jump
The unprecedented stress caused by the social isolation resulting from the pandemic is one primary explanation for the increase. Now, link this new stress to constraints on people’s ability to work, see loved ones, go to school, and engage in their communities, and one can see why. Loneliness, fear of infection, suffering, grief, financial worries, and kids out of school have also been cited as stressors leading to anxiety and depression.
Exhaustion has been a significant trigger for anxiety and suicidal thinking in health workers, both men and women.
Children & Women Most Affected
The Lancet: COVID-19 pandemic led to stark rise in depressive and anxiety disorders globally, with women and younger people most affected.
A study by the Global Burden of Disease shows:
… that the pandemic has affected the mental health of young people and that they are disproportionally at risk of suicidal and self-harming behaviors. It also indicates that women have been more severely impacted than men and that people with pre-existing physical health conditions, such as asthma, cancer and heart disease, were more likely to develop symptoms of mental disorders.
According to The Lancet study, mental disorders during and after the pandemic were anticipated to have a more significant impact on females as “they are more likely impacted by the social and economic consequences of the pandemic, precisely as challenges like school closures and illness disproportionately required women — especially those who were more likely to be financially disadvantaged during the pandemic due to lower salaries and savings than their male counterparts — to fill the role of caretaker.”
This comes as no shock, as females generally are more susceptible to depression and anxiety disorders than males, with susceptibility starting before age 15.
Learning to live with the pandemic’s side effects
Covid will likely lose its “pandemic” status sometime in 2022, due largely to rising global vaccination rates and developments of antiviral Covid pills that could become more widespread next year. Experts say the virus will likely become “endemic,” eventually fading in severity and becoming part of everyday life. Various strains of influenza have followed a similar pattern over the past century or more.
Hoping problems such as anxiety or depression will go away on their own can lead to worsening symptoms. If you have concerns or if you experience worsening of mental health symptoms, ask for help when you need it, and be upfront about how you’re doing.
The Mayo Clinic offers these suggestions to get help:
Call or use social media to contact a close friend or loved one — even though it may be hard to talk about your feelings.
Contact a minister, spiritual leader, or someone in your faith community.
If your employer has one, contact your employee assistance program and ask for counseling or a referral to a mental health professional.
Call your primary care provider or mental health professional to ask about appointment options to discuss your anxiety or depression and get advice and guidance. Some may provide the opportunity for phone, video, or online appointments.
Contact organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), or the Anxiety and Depression Association of America for help and guidance on information and treatment options.
If you’re feeling suicidal or thinking of hurting yourself, seek help. Contact your primary care provider or mental health professional. Or call a suicide hotline. In the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1–800–273-TALK (1–800–273–8255) or use its webchat at suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat.