You might have been lucky enough to have family and friends around supporting you through the Coronavirus pandemic, or possibly help from a third party like a healthcare provider. There’s simply no escaping the fact that the Covid pandemic has had a marked effect on humans’ mental health all around the world.
Here are some of the most common ways that the pandemic has impacted people’s mental health:
Depressive disorder and anxiety disorders
Global data shows us that in 2020 there were an extra 53.2 million cases of major depressive disorder, and 76.2 million more instances of anxiety disorders on top of baselines of 193 million and 298 million respectively. It seems that the effects of the pandemic have increased the likelihood of people suffering from one of these two areas of mental disorders.
Such problems can be hard to identify definitively, but are characterised by sharp changes in sleep patterns, appetite, energy levels, concentration, self-esteem and more. It can exhibit itself via greater agitation, excessive crying, irritability, restlessness and even thoughts of suicide. The sharp rise in cases during the pandemic reflects the harsh impacts that lockdowns and greater isolation have had on people.
Increased drinking and/or dependence on alcohol
Extended time in lockdown, as well as long periods working from home and not having to conform to office or other public standards or conventions led many people to turn to alcohol as a way of passing the time, or altering their mental state to try and forget the woes of the pandemic. One report said that 1 in 8 Australians were drinking alcohol every single day during the Covid outbreak.
For some, what started as a novelty of being able to drink more than usual turned into a habit that they are now struggling to break. Obviously, this has ramifications not just on mental health, but physical health, especially liver and heart health.
Loss of routine, bringing a loss in direction
Another key impact for many people has been a complete overturning of their daily routine, replacing it with something far less healthy and more negatively impacting on their mental and physical health. At the heart of this loss of routine and broader loss of direction was first the lockdowns moving all activity into the home, removing the daily routine of getting up, getting ready for work, commuting, and so on.
The other key factor was the resulting stress and insomnia that kept people awake late at night binge-watching streaming services, or wasting time on social media. Sleeping later and later resulted in wake-up and get-up times also being pushed right back. As the daily routine means less, times of day means less, days of the week mean less, and over time this can have a wearing effect on our mental health.
Greater sense of loneliness and isolation
Another big impact area on mental health has been the general isolation of many people, leading to greater loneliness and the many potential health problems that come with that. It’s hard to know precisely how loneliness really impacts people, because people react to it differently, but Covid has forced a lot of people to be alone for long periods of time, and that takes its toll on both physical and mental health.
It’s known, for instance, that social isolation is associated with a 50% increased risk for problems like dementia. It also increases risk of premature death from smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity, of course. A whole of ordinarily very sociable people have been hit very hard by enforced lockdowns and isolation for long periods away from family and friends.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.