Pandemic Causes Rise In Anxiety, Depression Rates, Study Finds

The study, conducted by QuoteWizard, an insurance comparison website, found states with high levels of stress also saw the highest levels of unemployment.
The study, conducted by QuoteWizard, an insurance comparison website, found states with high levels of stress also saw the highest levels of unemployment. iStock
Anxiety and depression rates have shot up across the country since COVID-19 broke out, and Texas has not been spared. On average, 34.2% of Texas residents have experienced anxiety or depression during the pandemic, according to a study conducted by QuoteWizard, an insurance comparison website. The state has seen a 28.3% increase in anxiety and depression statistics since April last year.

Nationally, these rates have increased by a little over 6%.

Job loss, stay-at-home orders and deaths from the disease all contribute to the increase. From April to September last year, 70% of people screened with moderate to severe anxiety or depression reported that one of the top things contributing to their mental health concerns was loneliness or isolation, according to a survey conducted by Mental Health America.

Stephen Link, a psychology professor at Dallas College’s Brookhaven campus, said social interaction is required to stay mentally healthy. “We have banded together forever for survival, and what winds up happening when you pull that away from people is it leaves a huge gap in their psychological well-being,” Link said.

The study also found states with high levels of stress also saw the highest levels of unemployment. The unemployment rate in Texas was up to 8.1% in November.

Every year, one in five adults experience mental illness, and the pandemic has exacerbated this as researchers anticipate a “collective trauma” associated with COVID-19. The average rate of depression or anxiety since the start of the pandemic has risen to 32.12%.

With such increases, lack of access to mental health care becomes a bigger problem.

In the last year, only 41% of adults received needed services for their mental health conditions, according to the study. Pandemic-related job loss has left 56% more Americans uninsured, giving them fewer treatment options.

Adam Johnson, a senior research analyst with QuoteWizard, said they expected mental health to be negatively affected in every state but were surprised to see a state like New York, which was so heavily hit by the virus, with minimal negative impact. Johnson said he wasn’t sure what to attribute this to.

To get these results, QuoteWizard evaluated mental health data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the frequency of anxiety or depression in each state from April to December last year. Analysts then ranked each state from 1 to 50.

States that experienced the lowest average rates of anxiety or depression were ranked closer to 50. Those that experienced higher rates of these diagnoses were ranked closer to 1. Texas was No. 6.

As COVID-19 vaccines are rolled out, Johnson said, some of the compounding factors contributing to the increase in stress and anxiety will be alleviated. “When you look at the fears of coming down with COVID-19 and the mortality rate, certainly with the vaccine, those would be the first things to be alleviated,” he said.

Additionally, when the vaccine becomes more widely available, as social gathering restrictions are lifted and as people are able to get back to work, their mental health with start to improve.

Until then, therapists told the Observer that people can maintain good mental health by practicing self-compassion, believing things are going to get better and getting in social interactions when they can. 
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Jacob Vaughn, a former Brookhaven College journalism student, has written for the Observer since 2018, first as clubs editor. More recently, he's been in the news section as a staff writer covering City Hall, the Dallas Police Department and whatever else editors throw his way.
Contact: Jacob Vaughn