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Many Young Americans Lonely, Depressed During Pandemic: Survey

HealthDay News
by Robert Preidt
Updated: Nov 20th 2020

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FRIDAY, Nov. 20, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Loneliness, anxiety, depression and substance use have increased sharply among young American adults during the COVID-19 pandemic, a survey shows.

Over 1,000 people aged 18 to 35 took part in the online anonymous questionnaire between April 22 and May 11, 2020. Nearly half reported high levels of loneliness, eight in 10 had significant depressive symptoms, and more than 60% said they had either moderate (45%) or severe (17%) anxiety.

In addition, 30% reported harmful levels of drinking. And of the 22% who said they used drugs, 38% reported severe drug use, according to the report published online recently in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.

Mental health care for young adults during and after the pandemic is crucial, said lead author Viviana Horigian, a professor at the University of Miami.

"The convergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the loneliness and addiction epidemics in the U.S. is here to stay," she said in a journal news release.

"These young adults are the future of our nation's social fabric. They need to be given access to psychological help, coupled with the development and dissemination of brief online contact-based interventions that encourage healthy lifestyles," Horigian said.

"Social prescribing, which draws from and promotes usage of community resources, also shows promise of improving social and psychological well-being," she added.

When the researchers assessed the impact of the pandemic, they found that loneliness, depression and anxiety had each increased by about 60%. Overall, the research team detected a 53% increase in lack of connectedness, a 48% increase in alcohol use and a 44% increase in drug use.

More than half of the respondents who reported an increase in loneliness also reported an increase in drinking, drug use, anxiety, depression or a decrease in feelings of connectedness.

Thirty percent of participants reported harmful and dependent levels of drinking, with 19% reporting binge drinking at least weekly and 44% reporting binge drinking at least monthly, the researchers said.

More information

For more on mental health and coping during the pandemic, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCE: Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, news release, Nov. 16, 2020