Study: COVID-19 Pandemic Disproportionately Impacted the Mental Health of Minority Populations

Research found that Black health care workers had higher odds of depression and anxiety than White health care workers.

Racial and ethnic minorities bore a disproportionate mental health burden during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the authors of a study published in PLOS ONE.

During the heights of the pandemic, research established that minority groups were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 when compared to non-Hispanic whites, including experiencing higher rates of infection, severe disease, hospitalization, and death. Following the pandemic, reports showing a 3-fold increase in the incidence of depression symptoms showed that the pandemic had a significant impact on mental health broadly, but the effects of COVID-19 on the mental health of minorities was not clear based on the data.

In the new study, investigators used data on 691,473 individuals in the United States and United Kingdom who responded to the smartphone-based COVID Symptom Study between January 23, 2021, and June 9, 2021. Recruited through social media, participants reported baseline information before logging daily information on their symptoms and COVID-19 testing results using an app called Zoe.

According to the study, after controlling for personal factors including prior mental health diagnoses and changes in leisure time activities, Black participants in the United States were 1.16 times more likely to screen positive for depression than White participants. Hispanic participants were also 1.23 times more likely to screen positive for depression and 1.23 times more likely to show signs of anxiety compared to White participants.

“The early phase of [the] COVID-19 pandemic was incredibly disruptive to everyday life,” wrote the authors in the study. “We found that racial and ethnic minorities in the US and UK were more likely to screen positive for depression and anxiety.”

Similar results were found for Black and Asian participants in the United Kingdom, as well as those within other participant subgroups, including Black health care workers, who had higher rates of depression and anxiety than White health care workers.

Based on these findings, the authors concluded that minority communities in both the United States and the United Kingdom experience a mental health burden that was disproportionate to other communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. These problems could also last well beyond any presumed conclusion of the pandemic.

“[The findings] suggest a disproportionate impact and mental health burden on persons of color, which need to be considered as we reshape health care systems to prioritize the long-term consequences of this disease,” the authors wrote in the study.

REFERENCE

Minorities bore disproportionate mental health impact of pandemic. News release. Science Daily; August 10, 2022. Accessed August 17, 2022. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/08/220810161148.htm

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