A study published Friday in the Lancet found that the COVID-19 pandemic led to an increase in anxiety and major depressive disorders around the world, particularly among women and youth.
The researchers said that school closures kept young people away from friends, and many women found themselves bearing the brunt of the housework and increased risk of domestic violence.
The study, led by academics at the University of Queensland in Australia, recorded an additional 76 million cases of anxiety disorders and 53 million cases of major depressive disorder as COVID-19 spread in 2020.
“Sadly, for a number of reasons, women were always more likely to be affected by the social and economic consequences of the pandemic,” said study co-author Alize Ferrari.
“Additional care and domestic responsibilities fall on women, and because women are more likely to be victims of domestic violence, that increases at different stages of the epidemic.”
He said school closures and other restrictions limited “the ability of youth to learn and interact with their peers”.
The research included 48 previously conducted studies from around the world, and pulled together their findings in a meta-analysis to measure the prevalence of mental health disorders in 204 countries and territories in 2020.
This made it “the first Granthshala insight into the burden of depressive and anxiety disorders during the pandemic,” said authors of a linked comment who was not involved in the study.
It found that there was an estimated 28 percent increase in major depressive disorder cases, from 246 million cases, to an estimated 193 million cases had the epidemic not occurred.
There was a similar 26 percent increase in estimated cases of concern, with an estimated 374 million cases compared to 298 million without the pandemic.
The study’s authors cautioned that while many poorer countries lacked high-quality data on the pandemic’s impact on mental health, adding additional estimates for those countries should be interpreted with caution.
(Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Andrew Heavens)