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Moderate rise in anxiety and depression in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic
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Kyoto, Japan -- Immediately after the global onset of Covid-19 and resulting societal restrictions, the world braced for a rise in mental health issues. The World Health Organization followed with a call for caution in this regard during the first year.

Researchers from institutions including the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine at the University of Bern and Kyoto University conducted a study on depression and anxiety among the general population.

"It turns out that, although we saw a moderate increase in these cases during the first two months, the impact on mental health varied significantly by population after that period," explains Georgia Salanti of the University of Bern.

The Mental Health COVID-19 -- or MHCOVID -- a group of over 100 scientists, reviewed a selection of 43 studies out of thousands to acquire a better understanding of pandemic-related changes in mental health.

These studies, involving a tally of self-reporting 331,628 participants, provided an analysis of how symptoms of psychological distress, sleep disturbances, and mental well-being changed over the first two months.

Although previous studies and systematic reviews suggested a rather significant increase in mental health problems throughout the first year of the pandemic, MHCOVID's research results reveal that this increase occurred only during the first two months.

"And that was a moderate change on average,” says Salanti.

Her team also found that strict governmental measures and a higher number of reported infections had more to do with the augmented symptoms of depression and anxiety.

"At the same time, we address a number of concerns in their methodology when acknowledging the uncertainty in the degree and extent of the worsening mental health issues," adds contributing author Toshi Furukawa of Kyoto University.

Further research might look into how the gap could be narrowed between this perceived uncertainty and empirical evidence on the efficacy of stringent measures.

Furukawa, Toshiaki
Publication information


Georgia Salanti, Natalie Peter, Thomy Tonia, Alexander Holloway, Ian R. White, Leila Darwish, Nicola Low, Matthias Egger, Andreas D. Haas, Seena Fazel, Ronald C. Kessler, Helen Herrman, Christian Kieling, Dominique J.F. De Quervain, Simone N. Vigod, Vikram Patel, Tianjing Li, Pim Cuijpers, Andrea Cipriani, Toshi A. Furukawa, and Stefan Leucht, the MHCOVID Crowd Investigators (2022). The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Associated Control Measures on the Mental Health of the General Population. Annals of Internal Medicine, 175(11), 1560-1571.

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