Social distancing, isolation, stress, unemployment and anxiety are just a few of the unseen byproducts of the ongoing health pandemic. Researchers have found that cases of mental health disorders worldwide have dramatically increased after the emergence of the coronavirus. Experts believe that had the pandemic not struck, the world would have experienced an estimated 75 million lesser cases of anxiety and 53 million fewer cases of major depressive disorder. The United Nation's Children Education Fund (UNICEF) report said that younger people are more susceptible to mental health issues than older people.
International news publication The Guardian quoted Dr Damian Santomauro of the University of Queensland saying, "We believe [that] is because women are more likely to be affected by the social and economic consequences of the pandemic. Women are more likely to take on the additional carer and household responsibilities due to school closures or family members becoming unwell. Women also tend to have lower salaries, fewer savings, and less secure employment than men, and so are more likely to be financially disadvantaged during the pandemic".
Almost A Third Of Children Felt Depressed
In the African country of Cameroon, almost a third of children felt that they felt depressed and had little interest in doing things. Similarly, one in five children in the United Kingdom and one in ten children in Ethiopia and Japan felt the same way. However, one must note that these findings do not denote established numbers but provide insight into how children think in a particular way after the pandemic struck. The UN report also highlighted that a lack of data and routine monitoring meant the importance of young people's mental health needs and showed how countries need to pay heed.
About 13 per cent of children aged between 10 to 19 years across the world are estimated to live with an existing mental health disorder, out of which 89 million were boys, and 77 million were girls. The Executive Director of UNICEF, Henrietta Fore, said that even though the impact is significant, it was still just the tip of the iceberg. Further, she added that even before the pandemic, many children were burdened with unaddressed mental health conditions. In 2022, as the pandemic enters its third year, the report revealed that one child died by suicide every 11 minutes.
Over 45,000 Deaths Of Individuals Aged 10 to 19 Years
With over 45,000 deaths, suicide is the fifth-most prevalent cause of death amongst individuals between 10 to 19 years. Amongst the age of 15 to 18-year-olds, suicide was the fourth most common cause of death. Diagnosed mental health problems, including anxiety, autism, bipolar disorder, ADHD, depression, eating disorders, and schizophrenia, can significantly harm children and young people's health, education and future, said the report.
Untreated mental health issues lead to the downgrading of several emerging economies. Research by the London School of Economics reported that the economic price of this neglect is £387.2 billion. Despite several demands for support for mental health, the global expenditure on the same amount to a mere 2.1 per cent of the total health expenditure. Governments spend less than one dollar per person per year on mental health in the poorest countries worldwide. While the number of psychiatrists for treating mental health conditions stands at 5.5 per cent, the number of psychiatrists who specialize in treating children stand at an alarming 0.1 per cent per 1,00,000.
An international team of researchers reported for The Lancet said that between 1 January 2020 to 29 January 2021, the daily mobility and increasing infection rate caused considerable stress to people. The experts used the information from a set of global studies to create a model to identify the prevalence of mental health conditions in countries from before the pandemic to the current time and break it down according to age, sex and global location. The study estimated 246 million cases of mental health disorders and over 374 million patients worldwide. The figure rose by 28 per cent for the former and over 26 per cent in the latter.
At least two-thirds of the extra cases of major depressive disorders and 68 per cent of anxiety disorder cases were among women. The most significant number of patients were between 20 to 24-year-olds. The team said, "We estimated that the locations hit hardest by the pandemic in 2020, as measured with decreased human mobility and daily Sars-CoV-2 infection rate, had the greatest increases in the prevalence of major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders". Parts of Western Europe and the Middle East were among those regions.
Increase In Psychosis
England also reported an increase in the number of cases of Psychosis in the past two years. The number of people who reported hallucinations and delusional thinking amid the stresses of the Covid-19 pandemic is showed a dramatic spike. Experts are worried about the long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic because of past long-term mental health issues of the previous pandemics and national emergencies. In 2003, the SARS global outbreak had led to a 30 per cent increase in suicides in people aged over 65 years.
Strategies adopted by several governments like that of isolation and quarantine have negatively impacted the mental health of the public and have caused post-traumatic stress symptoms, depression and insomnia. Moreover, job losses and the global economic downturn has been associated with stable declining mental health conditions. Psychologists believe that obsessive-compulsive disorder could be one of the lasting effects of the mental health pandemic.
Chronic loneliness brought by home isolation and social distancing brought 'a lack of meaning' in people's lives. Some people have involuntarily found themselves with fewer close connections in the age of social distancing and may find it challenging to rebuild their networks. On the other hand, many people voluntarily withdrew from their social circles to feel a sense of safety from the raging pandemic. Lastly, the stress of living with COVID-19 is likely to have a tremendous ongoing mental toll on those who have had miserable past experiences.