A new study out of Boston University has found depression in adults and teenagers has more than tripled since the pandemic started.
According to researchers, symptoms of depression among Americans has increased from 8.5 percent pre-pandemic to 27.8 percent. It is a precipitous rise in an illness that can create a loss of enthusiasm, feelings of hopelessness, changes in diet, and changes in sleep patterns.
“I feel like everyone is understanding what it’s like this year,” said Shane Weeks, a 26-year-old from Maine, who says he has been battling depression since he was 10. “Even people I feel like who have never faced depression or anxiety before are facing it now.”
According to the American Psychiatric Association, symptoms of depression must last at least two weeks and must represent a change in one’s previous level of functioning for an official diagnosis.
“I buy stuff so it’ll come in the mail, just so I have something to look forward to, said Weeks.
“It’s just a total feeling of zero energy. [There is] hopelessness, utter hopelessness, and I don’t want to feel this way.”
The study’s author, Catherine Ettman, says for many who are dealing with depression, understanding that others feel similarly can be empowering and comforting since symptoms of depression can feel isolating.
“For those who may be feeling depressed during this time you are not alone,” she said. “I think this [study’s findings] calls for a doubling down in our social investment in supporting people through difficult economic times.”
Researchers at BU found income can be a predictor of pandemic-induced depression. They found those with lower incomes were twice as likely to develop depressive symptoms, while those with less than $5,000 in their savings were one and a half times more likely to experience symptoms of depression.
“It’s just so hard not to be pessimistic because there’s rarely any good news,” said Weeks.
For Weeks, that doubling down in mental health assistance is significant. He says in normal times he would find solace in international travel, as he’s been able to visit six continents in the last decade. However, now, he says he is left to his own devices.
“You’re either going to wake up and it’s going to be the same exact thing that you experienced yesterday, or it feels like it’s going to be something even worse,” he said.
Researchers from the study say the rise in depression from COVID-19 has been higher than that experienced after 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.