IOSH have documented that Young people and women have been worst hit by anxiety and depression since the pandemic, according to a study by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The report also found that global prevalence of mental health disorders increased by a massive 25% across the board.
The research highlights those that have been most affected and summarises the effect of the pandemic on the availability of mental health services and how this has changed during the pandemic.
Concerns about potential increases in mental health conditions had already prompted 90% of countries surveyed to include mental health and psychosocial support in their Covid-19 response plans, but major gaps and concerns remain.
This is a wake-up call to all countries to pay more attention to mental health and do a better job of supporting their populations’ mental health
One major explanation for the increase is the unprecedented stress caused by the social isolation resulting from the pandemic. Linked to this were constraints on people’s ability to work, seek support from loved ones and engage in their communities.
‘The information we have now about the impact of Covid-19 on the world’s mental health is just the tip of the iceberg,’ said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general. ‘This is a wake-up call to all countries to pay more attention to mental health and do a better job of supporting their populations’ mental health.’
Loneliness, fear of infection, suffering and death for oneself and for loved ones, grief after bereavement and financial worries have also all been cited as stressors leading to anxiety and depression. Among health workers, exhaustion has been a major trigger for suicidal thinking.
The brief includes estimates from the latest Global Burden of Disease study, which shows that the pandemic has affected the mental health of young people and that they are disproportionally at risk of suicidal and self-harming behaviours. 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.
Data suggests that people with pre-existing mental disorders do not appear to be disproportionately vulnerable to Covid-19 infection. Yet, when these people do become infected, they are more likely to suffer hospitalization, severe illness and death compared with people without mental disorders. People with more severe mental disorders, such as psychoses, and young people with mental disorders, are particularly at risk.