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The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic presents an unprecedented crisis with potential negative mental health impacts.
This study used data collected via Youper, a mental health app, from February through July 2020. Youper users (N = 157,213) in the United States self-reported positive and negative emotions and anxiety and depression symptoms during the pandemic. We examined emotions and symptoms before (pre), during (acute), and after (sustained) COVID-related stay-at-home orders.
For changes in frequency of reported acute emotions, from the pre to acute periods, anxiety increased while tiredness, calmness, happiness, and optimism decreased. From the acute to sustained periods, sadness, depression, and gratitude increased. Anxiety, stress, and tiredness decreased. Between the pre and sustained periods, sadness and depression increased, as did happiness and calmness. Anxiety and stress decreased. Among symptom measures, anxiety increased initially, from the pre to the acute periods, but later returned to baseline.
The study sample was primarily comprised of young people and women. The app does not collect racial or ethnicity data. These factors may limit generalizability. Sample size was also not consistent for all data collected.
The present study suggests that although there were initial negative impacts on emotions and mental health symptoms in the first few weeks, many Americans demonstrated resilience over the following months. The impact of the pandemic on mental health may not be as severe as predicted, although future work is necessary to understand longitudinal effects as the pandemic continues.
J. S. Yarrington, J. Lasser, D. Garcia, J. H. Vargas, D. D. Couto, T. Marafon, M. G. Craske, A. N. Niles, Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Mental Health among 157,213 Americans, Journal of Affective Disorders 286 (2021) 64–70