Leadership Lesson: Impact of COVID on Mental Health

May 26, 2021

COVID mental health

The Impact of COVID-19 on Mental Health

Americans have been affected by COVID-19 in numerous ways. Many people experienced an adverse impact on their mental health due to financial implications, social isolation, serious illness or death of loved ones, and overall uncertainties. There have also been reports of increased alcohol and substance use, worsening of chronic conditions, increased anxieties, decreased care from primary care physicians and specialty providers, and increased suicidal ideations.

In addition, job loss, housing instability, food insecurity and other risk factors leading to poor outcomes have disproportionately hit minority communities. Racial and ethnic minority populations, who often experience mental health and substance misuse disparities, are believed to have significantly felt the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Children and adolescents are not exempt from COVID-19’s impact on mental health. The switch to online schooling led to lost routines, decreased social contact and limited access to supportive services. Anxiety and depressive episodes worsened with the overall increased stress in the home. Studies indicate that child abuse increased during the pandemic as well.

The full impact of COVID-19 on older American’s mental health is not yet known. Multiple factors contributed to psychological distress among the elderly, including:

  • Social isolation (visits not permitted or visits strongly advised against), which can exacerbate dementia and other neurological conditions.
  • Greater risk of contracting COVID-19
  • Greater risk of being hospitalized or dying from COVID-19
  • Difficulty accessing services/activities
  • Loneliness or decreased stimulation
  • Higher potential for medication disruption or misuse

These factors potentially resulted in the onset of depressive episodes, anxiety, suicidal ideation, physical pain, and decreased quality of life. For those with a substance use disorder, increased depression or anxiety could trigger an increase in substance use. Also, many older Americans lost loved ones to COVID-19, but they may not have had a chance to grieve for their loved ones and could experience complicated or unresolved grief.