Essay on Depression and COVID-19

Published: 2021/11/09
Number of words: 3635

As the COVID 19 pandemic swept across the world, it left behind significant social, economic, and health tolls. The United States was among the hardest-hit countries, with over 40 million cases and approximately 600,000 deaths (CDC, 2021). The economic struggles manifested through high unemployment claims, job losses, and business closures. Additionally, the shutdown of services left millions of individuals across the country confined and isolated. Existing research reveals that these circumstances are linked to the high prevalence of depression and psychological distress during the pandemic. With such profound and social and economic consequences, the pandemic falls under traumatic events with far-reaching ramifications regarding the mental well-being of populations. These effects also threatened the health care systems, the educational systems, and the economy, which were likely to lead to adverse mental health outcomes. Thus, this paper seeks to investigate the implications of COVID 19 for mental health and its relationship to elevated depression among individuals countrywide.

The impact of job loss and income insecurity on depression

Various scholars have explored the effects of job loss and financial concerns during the COVID 19 pandemic on mental health. Notably, these studies coherently posit the pandemic has been marked by elevated rates of depression in the United States. Ren (2020) reports that in the wake of the pandemic, health organizations recommended various guidelines to curb the transmission of the virus. The application of these guidelines led to the closure of numerous non-essential businesses and the execution of stay-at-home orders. These measures led to more than 40 million American workers applying for unemployment between February and May 2020. Apart from job losses, many individuals were also subjected to pay cuts. Past experiences with periods of economic turmoils such as recessions demonstrate that job losses lead to higher chances of depression and anxiety among individuals. Similarly, the COVID-19 pandemic had unprecedented negative consequences on the economy and jobs, which translated to increased rates of depression.

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Job insecurity relates to a sense of powerlessness regarding individuals’ threatened jobs. In other words, it is about experiences of perceived threats and the feeling that one’s job security is at risk. Income insecurity is a stressful experience linked to negative emotions and stress. Existing research has drawn a causal relationship between job insecurity and individuals’ adverse health and well-being. For instance, Probst (2017) contends that job insecurity impacts psychological well-being and somatic health over time. Insecure employees are more likely to exhibit more negative health outcomes, denoted by exhaustion, depression, and impaired medical rehabilitation. Notably, every domain of industry faced severe economic downturn during the economic downturn. With workers in private and public sectors reporting job losses and insecurity, it was not unusual that depression levels soared during the pandemic.

Incidentally, job insecurity and depression are aspects that depict reverse causation. This situation implies that while job insecurity causes depression, the reverse is also possible. Such circumstances manifested during the pandemic. Most studies focus on the impact of job loss and job insecurity, but some scholars have demonstrated that depression and psychological strains pose a significant effect on employees’ performance. Ganson et al. (2021) established that workplace stress significantly hinders employee performance. In these circumstances, organizations face difficulties in maintaining consistency in their operations without making choices that threaten the job security of their employees. Additionally, changes in workplaces such as increased workloads create stress and depression within employees. These situations demonstrate that the impact of the pandemic on employees’ mental health is multi-faceted because adverse psychological aspects of the workforce have a ripple effect on morale, motivation, and performance.

The associations between lockdown measures and depression

To stop the spread of COVID 19, governments worldwide implemented various containment measures, including stay-at-home policies, mask-wearing, and social distancing. The decisions were motivated by the potentially detrimental effects on physical health and the desire to contain the uncontrolled spread of the virus. Some social distancing measures included closing schools, limiting public gatherings, and closing businesses and services. Notably, in the United States, more than 40 states issued stay-at-home orders (Ren, 2020). For instance, the Illinois governor issued orders to close all non-essential businesses. In other areas, these closures included children’s playgrounds and public parks. These measures reduced social contact and interaction. Numerous studies have focused on the impact of lockdown measures on anxiety, depression, and psychological distress (Peretti-Watel et al., 2020; Benke et al., 2020). The imposed changes disrupted people’s everyday life and disturbed social support in the population. It is also possible that the risk of a potentially life-threatening disease triggered feelings of uncertainty, fear, and isolation. Succinctly, these aspects contributed to a high prevalence of depression and exacerbation of depressive symptoms across the population.

The stay-at-home orders were justified from a public health perspective as they proved to be an effective strategy to curb the spread of infectious diseases. Nevertheless, these orders had social and economic ramifications. The orders were linked to an economic downturn and exposure to distressing media coverage regarding the pandemic (Tull et al., 2020). They increased loneliness and depression among individuals. Notably, implementing these orders meant that most people stuck to their houses, and their interactions were mainly on social media. Existing studies have linked the social media coverage of disasters with adverse mental health reactions. Similarly, the mainstream media often covers disasters in a pervasive and intense fashion. For instance, the images of coverage included overcrowded hospitals, doctors in full protective gear. Human behavior experts have found that exposure to these potentially appalling images is distressing and significantly contributed to increased depressive symptoms during the pandemic.

The changes in daily life habits due to containment measures increased loneliness and social isolation in the population. Killgore et al. (2020) investigated the extent of loneliness and its link to increased depression and suicidal ideation using a nationally representative sample. This study found that there was indeed greater loneliness and association with depression among individuals. Most participants experienced a significant elevation in self-reported loneliness. Such findings are alarming since loneliness increases suicidal ideation. When combined with other aspects such as economic stresses and job losses associated with the pandemic, it becomes apparent that loneliness is a threat to the mental health of the populace. Thus, there was an urgent need to minimize virus transmission to consider the centrality of maintaining social connectedness.

Social stigma and fear as predictors of depression during the pandemic

Early studies published within ten months after the outbreak of COVID 19 indicated that patients who survived the virus underwent severer psychiatric issues, including insomnia, anxiety, and depression. These issues were denoted by emotions of anger, frustration, and sadness that they faced due to social stigma. Abdelhafiz & Alorabi’s (2020) study explored social stigma resulting from individuals who survived the virus or the relationship to survivors. It reported that there were discriminatory attitudes towards survivors. Additionally, survivors revealed that they felt abandoned and ostracized by their community. In most places, COVID 19 survivors had to undergo mandatory quarantine, further increasing their feelings of isolation. There were even instances in which mothers were separated from infants. In workplaces, survivors underwent stressful experiences due to discrimination. Such instances contributed to elevated depression levels among COVID-19 patients and survivors. However, the research emphasizes the importance of public education and promoting awareness to curb social stigma.

Apart from social stigma, COVID-19 survivors also encountered stressful experiences regarding the inability to perform everyday activities and the fear of permanent damages. Amid the rampant spread of the virus, there were reports that COVID-19 takes a toll on body organs such as the heart, lungs, kidneys, and liver. People with underlying cardiovascular diseases such as heart failure and high blood pressure were also found to be highly susceptible to exacerbations and death (Peretti-Watel et al., 2020). These reports elicited fears and concerns among various individuals who may have survived the virus but were worried that it had caused them irreversible and long-term damages. Additionally, the inability to do normal activities such as running and climbing the stairs without running out of breath and fatigue prompted concerns among patients and survivors. These fears and concerns about their health were linked to poor mental health outcomes.

Gender and age differences in the prevalence of depression during the COVID-19 pandemic

The outbreak of infectious diseases is often associated with mental health challenges such as depression. In these cases, gender and age differences in anxiety and depression have been conspicuous. The COVID-19 pandemic was not different from the dynamics of infectious diseases’ earlier outbreaks as these factors played out in a similar fashion. Particularly, Hou et al. (2020) investigated gender differences of depression among social media users during the pandemic. The findings of this study were consistent with existing research, which postulates that females are more likely to experience more severe anxiety symptoms and depression compared to males. This situation is premised y interactions between biological and social factors, including gender stereotypes, social stigma, and social autonomy. Precisely most studies are coherent in demonstrating the disproportionate levels of depression among women during the pandemic.

Moreover, pregnant women had a high susceptibility to depressive and anxiety symptoms during the pandemic. Normally, these symptoms affect between 10-15 percent of pregnant women (Lebel et al., 2020). As such, pregnant individuals face the risk of elevated depression that is linked to preterm birth and postpartum depression. Notably, pregnancy is often a vulnerable period during which psychological distress poses significant effects for the mother and the baby. As already established, women report higher depressive symptoms than men during the pandemic. Therefore, experts projected that pregnant women during the pandemic would have an increased risk of prenatal anxiety and depression symptoms. According to Davenport et al. (2020), these circumstances would also affect the maternal mood, fetus development and increase the risk of miscarriages. Undoubtedly, depression in pregnant women during the pandemic had potentially deleterious effects. As such, it was important for pregnant individuals to exercise protective factors such as exercise and social support linked to the mitigation of depressive symptoms.

Similarly, age differences were pertinent in describing depression in the population during the pandemic. Generally, aging theories indicate that older adult age is linked with fewer negative emotions. Benke et al. (2020) explored the age differences regarding risk perceptions and depression during the early phases of the COVID-19 outbreak in the US. The study reported that older adult age was linked to fewer experiences of negative economic consequences and saw lower risks of contracting the virus. Even though older individuals were more vulnerable to fatalities, they were associated with lower levels of depression and better mental health. Such findings reinforce the postulation that older adult age is associated with less distress after crises and pandemics. Relatively older adults are more likely to regulate their emotions by focusing on activities and interactions that limit stress.

Contrastingly, statistics indicate that younger adults were more vulnerable to stress and depression during the pandemic. A worldwide cross-sectional survey conducted by Varma et al. (2021) showed that young people exhibited the highest rates of psychological distress during the COVID-19 pandemic. Compared to middle and older age groups, younger adults reported higher stress, anxiety, and depression levels. These results are premised by the impact of disruption of lives, which was more significant among young adults. For instance, younger adults were the most likely to suffer depression and anxiety after the stay-at-home orders. Lockdown measures generally contributed to declining mental health in young people.

The vulnerability of younger persons to depression due to lockdown measures is not uncommon. Young adulthood is a developmental period in which social interactions, relationships, and social activities are crucial in growth. As such younger people who participate in social events such as parties and concerts felt increasingly disturbed by the crisis. Additionally, most young adults live in single households and are yet to establish stable relationships and families. Therefore, it was expected that measures such as stay-at-home orders would significantly disrupt their social lives as they are likely to experience high levels of loneliness. Cumulatively, these reasons account for why younger adults experienced higher risks for depression following the pandemic containment measures.

Populations most vulnerable to depression during COVID-19 pandemic

Health care professionals who were the frontline soldiers in fighting the pandemic were among the most exposed physically and psychosocially. In less than a year after the first case, the number of infections among health care workers worldwide was more than 300,000, and approximately 114500 infections in the United States (Erdem & Lucey, 2021). The study also indicates that the US had the highest number of COVID-related deaths among health care workers. Apart from the physical threat posed by the pandemic, health care workers also faced an imminent mental health crisis. Studies indicate that about half of all healthcare professionals suffered mental disorders during the pandemic’s first wave. Some of the disorders they presented included anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder. These findings are consistent with other studies worldwide, which found that healthcare professionals were physically and mentally consumed.

Unfortunately, it is not surprising that depression among health care workers would be extremely high. Public health systems and health care systems worldwide were not prepared to handle a pandemic of COVIS-19’s impact and magnitude. Instead, the pandemic has accentuated the gaps in health care and public health, including nursing shortage, physician maldistribution, and the lack of systems that handle health care workers’ mental health issues (Bedford et al., 2020). With the rising infection rates, hospitals were congested, and there was increased pressure on healthcare professionals. Notably, most of them had never experienced a global pandemic before. Factors such as working for extended periods, caring for severely ill patients, and making life and death decisions are major stressors for healthcare workers. The hectic environment and working conditions also put healthcare professionals at an increased risk for burnout, fatigue, stigma, and ultimately, depression.

Existing studies have extensively assessed the prevalence of stress and depressive symptoms among healthcare professionals. Wilson et al. (2020) investigated these factors among groups of people at the forefront of screening, diagnosing, and treating COVID- 19 patients. The study reported the prevalence of depressive symptoms among health care professionals is alarming. It noted that some of the variables that put pressure on the workers included being away from their families and fearing that they could potentially spread the virus to their family and friends. In some countries, the lack of personal protective gear and defective drugs and protocols also contributed immensely to high levels of stress and depression among health care workers.

Solutions to combatting COVID-19- Linked depression

Various solutions and coping strategies have been identified to combat the threat of depression emanating from multiple aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a need to deploy technological solutions such as wearable devices integrated into smartphones and tablets (Hou et al., 2020). These devices can monitor individuals’ moods and cognition in real-time. They can track different peoples’ moods and allow mental health professionals to tailor personalized interventions. Other interventions include mindfulness training and meditation, which enhance emotional regulation and reduce anxiety and depression during the pandemic. Particularly, mindfulness and mediation training help to balance the cognitive control systems by improving mindsets and moods.

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As demonstrated, the long durations of quarantine were linked to poor mental health and increased depressive symptoms. The stay-at-home orders promoted sedentary behavior among individuals characterized by less physical activity. Studies have demonstrated that the reduction of physical activity is detrimental physically and imposes significant ramifications on mental health. Thus, Dominski & Brandt (2020) proposes the need for people to stay active during such lockdown periods. Moreover, there is a need for more public awareness on the importance of physical activity in enhancing individuals’ psychological well-being. As noted, job losses and job insecurity was a significant cause of depression in the population. Evidence suggests that increased physical activity would be an intervention in addressing depression since activities like exercise routines can distract such people from worrying and can even result in higher self-esteem.


To sum up, this paper has identified that depression was a critical issue facing the United States and the world population during the pandemic. This situation was precipitated by the economic struggles following the crisis, the implementation of stay-at-home orders, and the disruption of daily lives. Remarkably, the economic effects of the pandemic were unpalatable and highly consequential to the workers who grappled with job losses and financial insecurity, which ultimately led them to depression. The reduction of social contact and interaction was also linked to depression and exacerbation of depressive symptoms. Moreover, it is evident that social stigma and fear significantly contributed to the high prevalence of depression. This situation was denoted by experiences of individuals who felt abandoned and discriminated against by the community. The paper has also highlighted gender and age differences noting that young adults and women were the most affected and suffered disproportionate levels of depression compared to other age groups and gender. Solutions put forward include emphasizing physical activity as a coping strategy and technology to tailor personalized interventions for individuals.


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