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History of Depression May Increase Perception of Pandemic-Related Community Stress

March 24, 2021

A history of depression may increase one’s perception of the amount of stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in their community, according to a study presented in a poster session at the Anxiety and Depression Association of America 2021 Virtual Conference.

As part of a larger, more geographically widespread study, researchers at Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan, virtually interviewed 172 participants from the Detroit metro area, of which 56 reported a history of depression. The interviews included questionnaires related to community stress and medical history that allowed participants to report on pandemic-related concerns such as food or housing insecurity, workplace hazards, access to resources, and the extent that they believed their community to be more affected than others.

Researchers found a significant interaction between depression and COVID-19 cumulative incidence. COVID-19 cumulative incidence was positively correlated with perceived community stress only in individuals with a history of treatment for depression. This finding remained significant after controlling for various demographic factors such as age, sex, race, education level, and current depressive symptoms.

Half of COVID-19 Survivors Report Moderate to Severe Depression

“The severity was pretty consistent across Detroit, but individuals in different areas of Detroit were reporting different amounts of community stress related to COVID,” said Charis Wiltshire, lead author and research assistant at the Detroit Trauma Project, Michigan.

COVID-19 cumulative incidence was positively correlated with perceived community stress only in individuals with a history of treatment for depression. In areas with low COVID-19 cumulative incidence, individuals without a history of depression reported greater community stress than those with a history of depression. Alternately, in areas with high cumulative incidence, individuals with a history of depression reported greater community stress than those without a history of depression, Wiltshire told virtual attendees.

“These results indicate the history of depression might be increasing one's perception of how the pandemic has affected his or her own community. Alternately, it's possible that individuals without a history of depression may be less sensitive to the stress in their community,” he said. “Importantly though, I believe that these results are highlighting the potential impact of pre-existing mental health problems on communities suffering the ongoing effects of the pandemic.”

—Meagan Thistle

Reference

Wiltshire C, Stenson A, Reda M, et a. Mental health during a pandemic: the association between history of depression and community stress. Poster presented at the Anxiety and Depression Association of America 2021 Virtual Conference; March 18, 2021; Virtual.

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