Depression and loneliness during COVID-19

Indiana University
5-Jun-2020 12:20 PM EDT, by Indiana University

Newswise — Americans experienced more depression and loneliness during the early COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study by Indiana University researchers, but those who were able to keep frequent in-person social and sexual connections had better mental health outcomes.

The study, published as a preprint in MedRxiv, looked at the prevalence of depression and loneliness during the COVID-19 response and examined their associations with frequency of social and sexual connections.

“During the beginning of the pandemic, when social distancing and other restrictions were put into place, we found that depression and loneliness were being experienced at considerably heightened rates in the U.S.,” said Molly Rosenberg, lead author of the study and assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington. “While these restrictions were and continue to be critically important to protecting Americans from the virus, it is clear that the spread and response to the virus has had a tremendous mental health impact on Americans.”

According to the study, one-third of participants (31 percent) reported depressive symptoms in the past week, and they were more likely to be women, age 20-29, unmarried, in the lowest income bracket, and living alone. This number is nearly four times higher than previous estimates among American adults, Rosenberg said.

Researchers conducted an online cross-sectional survey of a nationally representative sample of American adults aged 18-94 from April 10-20, 2020. They assessed depressive symptoms, loneliness, frequency of in-person and remote social connections (hugging family member, video chats) and sexual connections (partnered sexual activity and dating app use).

The study also looked at relationship tension (increased tension or arguments due to the spread of COVID-19 and related restrictions) among participants reporting romantic relationships.

“Among those in romantic relationships, we found that increased relationship tension was associated with dramatically higher prevalence of both loneliness and depression compared to those not experiencing such conflict,” says Maya Luetke, co-author and doctoral student in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics.

In terms of social connection, the study found that those who reported hugging or kissing a family member almost every day in the last month were 26 percent less likely to report major depressive symptoms and 28 percent less likely to report loneliness.

However, the same was not true for remote connections (video chats) which were not associated with lower depression or loneliness. 

“This data reaffirms our understanding of the importance of human connection for mental health and well-being,” Rosenberg said. “It also suggests that these kinds of connections are not easily recreated with remote technology where direct touch is not possible.”

In terms of sexual connections, the study found that those who reported the most frequent partnered sex were 57 percent less likely to report depressive symptoms. However, those who reported frequent remote sex or dating app usage tended to have slightly higher rates of depression and loneliness.

Furthermore, those who reported experiencing increased tension with their romantic partner due to COVID-19 were more likely to report major depressive symptoms and loneliness. 

Researchers of the study acknowledge the need for social restrictions as the country continues to curb the spread of the virus. Expanding mental health services during the pandemic to serve those most at-risk and identifying effective ways of maintaining social and sexual connections from a distance could help in combatting increased mental health issues during this time.

“Poor mental health was widespread during COVID-19 restrictions, but we know that these restrictions are a critical tool to fight the spread of COVID-19. Our findings should not be taken as supporting premature lifting of restrictions or against reinstating them as needed. Instead, we should be ensuring mental health services reach those who need them and coming up with better ways to support interpersonal connections from afar.” 

Devon Hensel, associate research professor of pediatrics at the IU School of Medicine; Sina Kianersi, doctoral student in Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at IU School of Public Health-Bloomington; Tsung-chieh Fu, postdoctoral fellow at IU Bloomington and Debby Herbenick, professor in sexual and reproductive health at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington also contributed to the study.


Filters close

Showing results

110 of 4573
Released: 15-Jan-2021 5:40 PM EST
Research Links Social Isolation to COVID-19 Protocol Resistance
Humboldt State University

As health officials continue to implore the public to wear masks and practice social distancing, recent research by Humboldt State University Psychology Professor Amber Gaffney provides key insights into connections between social isolation, conspiratorial thinking, and resistance to COVID-19 protocols.

Newswise: Rapid blood test identifies COVID-19 patients at high risk of severe disease
Released: 15-Jan-2021 5:35 PM EST
Rapid blood test identifies COVID-19 patients at high risk of severe disease
Washington University in St. Louis

Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have shown that a relatively simple and rapid blood test can predict which patients with COVID-19 are at highest risk of severe complications or death. The blood test measures levels of mitochondrial DNA, which normally resides inside the energy factories of cells. Mitochondrial DNA spilling out of cells and into the bloodstream is a sign that a particular type of violent cell death is taking place in the body.

Released: 15-Jan-2021 2:55 PM EST
COVID-19 deaths really are different. But best practices for ICU care should still apply, studies suggest.
Michigan Medicine - University of Michigan

COVID-19 deaths are indeed different from other lung failure deaths, according to two recent studies, with 56% of COVID-19 patients dying primarily from the lung damage caused by the virus, compared with 22% of those whose lungs fail due to other causes. But, the researchers conclude, the kind of care needed to help sustain people through the worst cases of all forms of lung failure is highly similar, and just needs to be fine-tuned.

Released: 15-Jan-2021 2:50 PM EST
45% of adults over 65 lack online medical accounts that could help them sign up for COVID-19 vaccinations
Michigan Medicine - University of Michigan

As the vaccination of older adults against COVID-19 begins across the country, new poll data suggests that many of them don’t yet have access to the “patient portal” online systems that could make it much easier for them to schedule a vaccination appointment. In all, 45% of adults aged 65 to 80 had not set up an account with their health provider’s portal system.

Released: 15-Jan-2021 1:30 PM EST
New England Journal of Medicine publishes COVID-19 treatment trial results
University of Texas at San Antonio

A clinical trial involving COVID-19 patients hospitalized at UT Health San Antonio and University Health, among roughly 100 sites globally, found that a combination of the drugs baricitinib and remdesivir reduced time to recovery, according to results published Dec. 11 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Released: 15-Jan-2021 12:40 PM EST
DNA test can quickly identify pneumonia in patients with severe COVID-19, aiding faster treatment
University of Cambridge

Researchers have developed a DNA test to quickly identify secondary infections in COVID-19 patients, who have double the risk of developing pneumonia while on ventilation than non-COVID-19 patients.

Released: 15-Jan-2021 12:30 PM EST
Fight CRC To Present Research Findings on The Impact of COVID-19 on the Colorectal Cancer Community at 2021 GI ASCO
Fight Colorectal Cancer

Fight Colorectal Cancer presents abstract at Gastrointestinal Cancer Symposium highlighting the need to address the barriers and opportunities for care within the colorectal cancer community during the COVID-19 pandemic

Released: 15-Jan-2021 12:25 PM EST
Technion to Award Honorary Doctorate to Pfizer CEO Dr. Albert Bourla
American Technion Society

Israel's Technion will award an honorary doctorate to Pfizer CEO and Chairman Dr. Albert Bourla, for leading the development of the novel vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The honorary doctorate will be conferred at the Technion Board of Governors meeting in November 2021.

Released: 15-Jan-2021 11:30 AM EST
UW researchers develop tool to equitably distribute limited vaccines
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and UW Health have developed a tool that incorporates a person’s age and socioeconomic status to prioritize vaccine distribution among people who otherwise share similar risks due to their jobs.

Showing results

110 of 4573