According to the CDC website, there have been 4,280,135 confirmed cases in the United States alone. But what about the people who haven’t contracted the disease? How have they been impacted? What about the people who lost their jobs?
The CDC has warned that "fear and anxiety" are factors that are being instilled in people's minds due to the disease itself and social distancing. The overwhelming feeling of fear and anxiety can cause strong negative emotions in people of all ages. At the core of this fear is social distancing. Social distancing has allowed people to feel isolated and alone which is causing an increase in stress and anxiety.(1)
According to Karestan Koenen (2), a professor of psychiatric epidemiology at the Chan School, “People are really reaching out for information about mental health.” There were more than 700 people attending a weekly online forum on mental health topics at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health on April 8th. The recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey showed 19% of respondents said that this global pandemic has a major impact on their mental health. This data is backed up by a survey done in China after the SARS pandemic that suicide rates among the quarantined elderly increased. And the West Africa Ebola epidemic caused increased rates of anxiety and depression.
Loneliness can lead to various psychiatric disorders. (3) Loneliness can cause depression, alcohol abuse, child abuse, sleep problems, personality disorders, and Alzheimer’s disease. Some risk factors are living alone and a limited number of ‘social’ resources. There are three different types of loneliness, which are situational, developmental, and internal.
Situational Loneliness: Caused by environmental factors (accidents, disasters, displacement, etc.)
Developmental Loneliness: Caused by personal inadequacies, separations, poverty, living arrangements, and physical/psychological disabilities
Internal Loneliness: Caused by personality factors, loss of control, distressing mentality, low self-esteem, guilt, and poor response to situations
CNBC showed the United States lost more than 36 million jobs since March. Unemployment has contributed to the “heightened mental health struggles and depression—feelings of hopelessness, emptiness, loss of energy, trouble sleeping, etc.”(4) So when social distancing and unemployment come together it may cause a flood on the number of mental health issues we may face in the future. Job loss is associated with an increase in depression, anxiety, distress, and low self-esteem and may lead to higher rates of drug use disorder and suicide. According to Nirmita Panchal et al.(5) polling data is showing more than half of the people who lost income or reported employment that they worry or stress over the coronavirus, and lower-income people report higher rates of major negative mental health impacts compared to higher-income people.
The people who may be the most at risk are the elderly, who are at risk for depression or having suicidal thoughts.(5) Older adults are most likely to contract coronavirus so they must be the first to social distance themselves. But this may mean limiting their interactions with caretakers and family members. This may cause increased feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and uncertainty of contracting the coronavirus. The elderly are at risk for depression, which goes misdiagnosed and undertreated. The amount of cases of depression increases for those who require at-home health care or in hospitals. Suicidal thoughts is seen in many older adults.
What if you have these feelings, or know someone who does?:
You should reach out to your local health professionals or reach out to a friend for help.