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Anxiety and depression up by 30% during COVID-19 pandemic

Psychiatrists are seeing elevated levels of mental illness across all ages and ethnicities, but one group in particular seems to have the highest rates.

TAMPA, Fla — COVID-19 has multiple symptoms that we know to look out for, things like shortness of breath, fever, cough, and fatigue. But now, we are also starting to understand the side effects of this virus and pandemic on us as a society.

Cases of anxiety and depression are on the rise across the United States, and here in Tampa, we are not immune.

"Everyone's affected by COVID in some way, shape or form, regardless if you've had it, or if you know somebody who's had it. The effects of it have impacted people. Of course, that's going to affect their mental health," said Dr. Ryan Wagoner, the vice-chair for clinical services and a psychiatrist in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at the University of South Florida.

The impact on mental health is being seen across all ages and races. Some of the cases are being found because patients come in for other medical concerns.

"We're seeing both more anxiety as well as depressive symptoms. But again, there's not that corresponding extra outreach, there's not that extra desire or, or looking for treatment. And that's a little concerning," said Dr. Wagoner.

"We're seeing it in ways of, you know, screening folks, particularly at their primary care physicians offices, as well as seeing other physicians where it for example, in the past, about 10% of people would endorse having some sort of anxiety or depressive symptom. And that's we're looking back in 2019. More recently, though, we're seeing people report anxiety and depressive symptoms at a rate of 40%."

That rate is an average, when broken down by age, you see that some age groups have even higher rates.

Anxiety and/or Depressive Disorder during COVID-19 by age, according to data from USF Health:

  • 18-24 years old: 56.2 percent
  • 25-49 years old: 48.9 percent
  • 50-64 years old: 39.1 percent
  • 65+ years old: 29.3 percent

Unfortunately, doctors like Wagoner worry that the rates could be even higher because there is a stigma and misunderstanding around treating mental illness. 

"If you were concerned, for example, about a physical pain that just didn't go away, you would still seek out treatment. Think about that in the same way with mental illness," said Dr. Wagoner. 

"You know, if you're having anxiety or depression, which is sort of this mental pain, and you're not quite sure what that is, or if that's something that needs to be managed, come seek someone else in order to do that.”

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