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Mental health struggles on the rise during pandemic, CDC report says

The headquarters for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
The headquarters for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.Ron Harris/Associated Press

Nearly 29 percent of some 1,000 people surveyed online in the US in March and April reported experiencing depression, and just over 18 percent reported substance use increase or initiation as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to rage, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published Feb. 5.

And, the report said, survey respondents of color, particularly Hispanic participants, reported higher rates of mental health concerns.

“Racial and ethnic minority groups have experienced disparities in mental health and substance misuse related to access to care, psychosocial stress, and social determinants of health,” the report said, adding that addressing “psychosocial stressors, mental health conditions, and substance misuse among U.S. adults during the COVID-19 pandemic is important, as are interventions tailored for racial and ethnic minority groups.”

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The report said Hispanic adults “reported higher levels of stress and worry about not having enough food or stable housing than did” white adults.

According to the report, 28.6 percent of 1,004 online survey respondents reported depression, 18.2 percent reported substance use increase or initiation, and 8.4 percent disclosed suicidal thoughts or ideation.

The report identified 100 respondents as Black non-Hispanic, 118 participants as Hispanic/Latino, 129 as other/non-Hispanic, and 657 as white non-Hispanic.

The document said respondents identified as Hispanic/Latino reported the highest rates of mental health concerns in all three categories, with 40.3 percent of 118 respondents reporting depression, 36.9 percent reporting substance use increase or initiation, and 22.9 percent disclosing suicidal thoughts or ideation.

The 129 respondents identified as other, non-Hispanic reported a depression rate of 31.4 percent, while 15.1 percent disclosed substance use increase or initiation, and 8.9 percent reported suicidal thoughts or ideation.

In addition, the report said 27.7 percent of 100 respondents identified as Black non-Hispanic reported depression, 15.6 percent reported substance use increase or initiation, and 5.2 percent disclosed suicidal thoughts or ideation.

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The report said the 657 white non-Hispanic respondents reported depression at a rate of 25.3 percent, while 14.3 percent reported substance use increase or initiation, and 5.3 percent disclosed suicidal thoughts or ideation.

The report stated additional public health measures are necessary to address the mental and behavioral health consequences of the pandemic.

“Addressing barriers or disruptions to access to and delivery of mental health and substance use services during the COVID-19 pandemic, including considerations for health care systems, practices, and providers using telehealth coverage; consideration of parity in insurance coverage for mental health and substance use services; and use of virtual mental health treatment and substance use recovery groups, is important,” the report said.

The CDC said policies and programs “can be adapted or developed to reduce preexisting racial and ethnic group disparities in social determinants of health ... while also addressing psychosocial stressors unique to communities with large racial and ethnic minority populations. The mental health and psychosocial needs of U.S. adults, including persons in racial and ethnic minority groups, are an important consideration when promoting community resilience and preserving access to and provision of services during the COVID-19 pandemic.”


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.