The COVID-19 pandemic led to an increase in anxiety and depressive disorders around the world, especially among women and young people, according to a study published Friday in the Lancet.
Young people suffered because school closures kept them away from friends, and many women found themselves being duped by housework and at increased risk of domestic violence, the researchers said.
The study, led by academics from the University of Queensland, Australia, recorded 76 million additional cases of anxiety disorders and 53 million of depressive disorders as COVID-19 spread in 2020.
“Unfortunately, for numerous reasons, women were always more likely to be worse affected by the social and economic impact of the pandemic,” said study co-author Alize Ferrari.
“Additional care and household responsibilities usually fall on women, and as women are more likely to be victims of domestic violence, which increased at different stages of the pandemic.”
School closures and other barriers “limited young people’s ability to learn and interact with their peers,” she added.
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The study included 48 previously conducted studies from around the world and brought their findings together in a meta-analysis to quantify the prevalence of mental health disorders in 204 countries and territories by 2020.
That made it “the first global insight into the burden of depressive and anxiety disorders during the pandemic,” according to the authors of a linked comment piece not involved in the study.
It found that there were an estimated 28 percent more cases of major depressive disorder, up to 246 million cases, up from an estimated 193 million cases if the pandemic had not happened.
There was a similar 26 percent increase in estimated anxiety cases, with an estimated 374 million cases compared with 298 million without the pandemic.
The study authors cautioned that there was a lack of high-quality data on the impact of the pandemic on mental health in many poorer countries, and adding extrapolated estimates for those countries should be interpreted with caution.
(Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by Andrew Heavens)