People who had higher pre-pandemic levels of depression or anxiety have been more severely affected by disruption to jobs and healthcare during the pandemic, say researchers, including one of Indian-origin.
The findings indicated that people whose survey responses before the pandemic suggested higher levels of anxiety and depression symptoms were 24 per cent more likely to have had delays to medical procedures, 12 per cent more likely to lose their job and 33 per cent more likely to have had disruption to prescriptions or medication during the first eight to 10 months of the pandemic than those with average levels of anxiety and depression symptoms.
“The anxiety and depression experienced by the participants of the study go beyond the mental ill health reported to GPs and healthcare services,” said researcher Nishi Chaturvedi from the University College of London.
“This is a largely hidden group of people vulnerable to potentially long-lasting health and socioeconomic consequences of the pandemic,” Chaturvedi added.
For the study, published in The British Journal of Psychiatry, the researchers looked at data from 59,482 people who are surveyed regularly as part of 12 ongoing longitudinal studies in England.
In each of the longitudinal studies, respondents answered questionnaires designed to assess mental health about three years before the pandemic on average. They later reported the disruptions they experienced between March and December last year.
The researchers compared disruptions faced by people whose responses showed “average” levels of anxiety and depression to disruptions affecting people with more anxiety and depression than average, regardless of whether they had a clinical diagnosis or were seeking treatment for a mental illness.
Those with more severe symptoms of depression or anxiety experienced a much greater likelihood of disruptions to jobs, income and healthcare, the study found.