When the World Health Organization first announced the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year, few people imagined the impact it would have on our lives all these months later – with no signs of improvement anytime soon. Every day people continue to struggle with this new reality, and many who dealt with it first find it more difficult as the pandemic spreads. It may not come as a surprise to learn that new research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has found that three times the number of people now report symptoms of depression ranging from mild to severe compared to pre-pandemic.
As if that wasn't bad enough, researchers at the University of Toronto in Canada found that people who experienced symptoms of anxiety and depression were also more likely to delay medical care. In fact, they avoided medical care twice as often as those who did not have anxiety or depression.
There was news from emergency rooms reporting seeing fewer patients with heart attacks, strokes, and hyperglycemic crisis – abnormally high blood sugar (sugar) in people with diabetes. Visits for other health problems also decreased significantly, by up to 60%. The researchers wanted to know whether the rising levels of depression and anxiety play a role.
They collected data from a weekly US Census survey that asked participants about the social and economic impact of COVID-19. Questions asked when attendees:
- Felt "nervous, afraid, or nervous"
- If they weren't able to "stop or control worry"
- When they "had little interest or pleasure in doing things"
- When they felt "down, depressed, or hopeless"
Those who felt "more nervous, anxious, or nervous" were more likely to avoid medical treatment, but by and large those who reported some or all of the symptoms delayed treatment.
"Patients with chronic conditions or new symptoms that they are concerned about should continue to seek medical advice," said co-author Jason M. Nagata, MD, in a press release. "As the pandemic continues, it is still vital that the public have accurate and updated information on the risks and benefits of medical care." Dr. Nagata is an Assistant Professor at the University of California in the Department of Pediatrics in San Francisco.
A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states: “(P) Individuals who experience signs or symptoms of a serious illness, such as severe chest pain, sudden or partial loss of motor skills, altered mental status, or signs of extreme hyperglycemia Other life-threatening issues, regardless of the pandemic, should be treated immediately in an emergency. “In other words, if you have reason to believe that you need medical attention, seek help as soon as possible.
However, routine care is also important to reduce the number of urgent problems that may have been identified early. The CDC suggests using telemedicine or email to avoid traveling for routine care. But emergencies are emergencies, even during the pandemic.
When you are in trouble, you are not alone. There is help. When it is not possible to reach friends and family, there are state hotlines and a national hotline 1-800-662-HELP (4357), a suicide prevention hotline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and a disaster emergency number 1-800-985-5990. Ask for help. It's out there.