As the coronavirus spread around the world, some 76 million people reported anxiety problems brought on by the pandemic, a 26 percent increase from 2019 to 2020, according to research published in the Lancet journal.
Based on data from 48 studies, encompassing 204 countries and territories, the researchers determined that this pandemic-inspired increase brought the global total for anxiety disorders to 374 million people. Women were affected more often than men, and younger people (especially those in their early 20s) more often than older people. Overall, the numbers increased the most in countries hit hardest by the pandemic, most likely affected by such things as business and school closures, social restrictions, job losses, money problems and more.
The pandemic's impact on mental health worldwide, according to the research, also included an increase in the number of people reporting depression, with about 53 million new cases of depressive disorder in 2020 attributed to the pandemic.
That represents an increase of 28 percent from the preceding year, bringing the global total of those affected by depression to 246 million people. The researchers noted that "emerging evidence" indicates that the pandemic may be having a similar effect on other health issues, such as eating disorders, furthering the need to strengthen mental health care in most countries.
"Taking no action to address the burden of major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders should not be an option," they write.