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Variation in symptoms of common mental disorders in the general population during the COVID-19 pandemic: longitudinal cohort study

Saunders, Rob; Buckman, Joshua EJ; Suh, Jae Won; Fonagy, Peter; Pilling, Stephen; Bu, Feifei; Fancourt, Daisy; (2024) Variation in symptoms of common mental disorders in the general population during the COVID-19 pandemic: longitudinal cohort study. BJPsych Open , 10 (2) , Article e45. 10.1192/bjo.2024.2. Green open access

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: A significant rise in mental health disorders was expected during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, referrals to mental health services dropped for several months before rising to pre-pandemic levels. AIMS: To identify trajectories of incidence and risk factors for common mental disorders among the general population during 14 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, to inform potential mental health service needs. METHOD: A cohort of 33 703 adults in England in the University College London COVID-19 Social Study provided data from March 2020 to May 2021. Growth mixture modelling was used to identify trajectories based on the probability of participants reporting symptoms of depression (Patient Health Questionnaire-9) or anxiety (Generalised Anxiety Disorder-7) in the clinical range, for each month. Sociodemographic and personality-related characteristics associated with each trajectory class were explored. RESULTS: Five trajectory classes were identified for depression and anxiety. Participants in the largest class (62%) were very unlikely to report clinically significant symptom levels. Other trajectories represented participants with a high likelihood of clinically significant symptoms throughout, early clinically significant symptoms that reduced over time, clinically significant symptoms that emerged as the pandemic unfolded and a moderate likelihood of clinically significant symptoms throughout. Females, younger adults, carers, those with existing mental health diagnoses, those that socialised frequently pre-pandemic and those with higher neuroticism scores were more likely to experience depression or anxiety. CONCLUSIONS: Nearly 40% of participants followed trajectories indicating risk of clinically significant symptoms of depression or anxiety. The identified risk factors could inform public health interventions to target individuals at risk in future health emergencies.

Type: Article
Title: Variation in symptoms of common mental disorders in the general population during the COVID-19 pandemic: longitudinal cohort study
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1192/bjo.2024.2
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1192/bjo.2024.2
Language: English
Additional information: © The Author(s), 2024. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Royal College of Psychiatrists. This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/ licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution and reproduction, provided the original article is properly cited.
Keywords: Anxiety or fear-related disorders, cohort study, depressive disorders, epidemiology, statistical methodology
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Clinical, Edu and Hlth Psychology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health > Behavioural Science and Health
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10187256
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