WHO: Pandemic Causing An Epidemic of Mental Health Problems

Of the coronavirus’s many side effects, perhaps the least appreciated are psychological. Those who’ve had a bad case and survived, like people who’ve been in war or accidents, may suffer post-traumatic stress for years. And even people in the as-yet-healthy majority are hurting. Young adults, in particular, are getting more depressed and anxious as SARS-CoV-2 uproots whatever budding life plans they’d been nursing.

It’s long been clear that Covid-19, like any major disaster, is causing an increase in mental-health disorders and their accompanying evils. Those range from alcoholism and drug addiction to wife beating and child abuse. In the Americas, the world’s most afflicted region with hotspots from the the U.S. to Brazil, this psycho-social crisis has become its own epidemic, the World Health Organization’s regional branch said this week.

In the U.S., the national rate of anxiety tripled in the second quarter compared to the same period in 2019 (from 8.1% to 25.5%), and depression almost quadrupled (from 6.5% to 24.3%). In Britain, which has also had a severe outbreak and a long lockdown, depression has roughly doubled, from 9.7% of adults before the pandemic to 19.2% in June.

As with everything else about this virus, the suffering isn’t spread evenly. As I said in April, Covid-19 hits the poor harder than the rich and minorities worse than Whites. And as I wrote last month, it also derails the careers and lives of some generations — specifically, Millennials — more than those of others. It’s a similar story with the spread of depression and anxiety, which are disproportionately tormenting minorities.

Perhaps more surprisingly, it’s also the youngest adults who are suffering the most mental anguish, in the U.S. and the U.K. (see charts) and presumably elsewhere too. At first glance, this might seem odd, since young adults, like children, have less risk of major health complications from Covid-19.