Mental Health | NIH COVID-19 Research

Mental Health | NIH COVID-19 Research

Mental Health | NIH COVID-19 Research

Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic

An Urgent Issue

Both SARS-CoV-2 and the COVID-19 pandemic have significantly affected the mental health of adults and children. In a 2021 study, nearly half of Americans surveyed reported recent symptoms of an anxiety or depressive disorder, and 10% of respondents felt their mental health needs were not being met. Rates of anxiety, depression, and substance use disorder have increased since the beginning of the pandemic. And people who have mental illnesses or disorders and then get COVID-19 are more likely to die than those who don’t have mental illnesses or disorders.

Mental health is a focus of NIH research during the COVID-19 pandemic. Researchers at NIH and supported by NIH are creating and studying tools and strategies to understand, diagnose, and prevent mental illnesses or disorders and improve mental health care for those in need.

How COVID-19 Can Impact Mental Health

If you get COVID-19, you may experience a number of symptoms related to brain and mental health, including:

Data suggest that people are more likely to develop mental illnesses or disorders in the months following infection, including symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). People with Long COVID may experience many symptoms related to brain function and mental health.

How the Pandemic Affects Developing Brains

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of children is not yet fully understood. NIH-supported research is investigating factors that may influence the cognitive, social, and emotional development of children during the pandemic, including:

Not Everyone Is Affected Equally

While the COVID-19 pandemic can affect the mental health of anyone, some people are more likely to be affected than others. People who are more likely to experience symptoms of mental illnesses or disorders during the COVID-19 pandemic include:

  • People from racial and ethnic minority groups

  • Mothers and pregnant people

  • People with financial or housing insecurity

  • Children

  • People with disabilities

  • People with preexisting mental illnesses or substance use problems

  • Health care workers

People who belong to more than one of these groups may be at an even greater risk for mental illness.

Telehealth’s Potential to Help

The pandemic has prevented many people from visiting health care professionals in person, and as a result, telehealth has been more widely adopted during this time. Telehealth visits for mental health and substance use disorders increased significantly from 2020 to 2021 and now make up nearly half of all total visits for behavioral health.

Widespread adoption of telehealth services may help people who otherwise would not be able to access mental health support, such as people in rural areas or places with few providers.