ScienceDirect

Abstract

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has been associated with mental health consequences due to direct (i.e., SARS-CoV-2 infection, potentially due to neuronal or astrocytic infection, microvascular, or inflammatory mechanisms) and indirect (i.e., social and economic impacts of COVID-19 prevention measures) effects. Investigation of mental health in a region with one of the longest lockdowns and lowest COVID-19 prevalence globally (Victoria, Australia) allowed for evaluation of mental health in the absence of substantial direct pandemic mental health consequences. Surveys were administered during 15–24 September 2020 to Victorian residents aged ≥18 years for The COVID-19 Outbreak Public Evaluation (COPE) Initiative. Responses were compared cross-sectionally with April-2020 data, and longitudinally among respondents who completed both surveys. Multivariable Poisson regressions were used to estimate prevalence ratios for adverse mental health symptoms, substance use, and suicidal ideation adjusted for demographics, sleep, and behaviours (e.g., screen-time, outdoor-time). In September-2020, among 1157 Victorians, one-third reported anxiety or depressive disorder symptoms, one-fifth reported suicidal ideation, and one-tenth reported having seriously considered suicide in the prior 30 days. Young adults, unpaid caregivers, people with disabilities, and people with diagnosed psychiatric or sleep conditions showed increased prevalence of adverse mental health symptoms. Prevalence estimates of symptoms of burnout, anxiety, and depressive disorder were unchanged between April-2020 and September-2020. Persistently common experiences of adverse mental health symptoms despite low SARS-CoV-2 prevalence during prolonged lockdown highlight the urgent need for mental health support services.

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