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Risk for depression tripled during the COVID-19 pandemic in emerging adults followed for the last 8 years

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 November 2021

Elisabet Alzueta
Affiliation:
Center for Health Sciences, SRI International, Menlo Park, CA, USA
Simon Podhajsky
Affiliation:
Center for Health Sciences, SRI International, Menlo Park, CA, USA
Qingyu Zhao
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA
Susan F. Tapert
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, CA, USA
Wesley K. Thompson
Affiliation:
Division of Biostatistics and Department of Radiology, Population Neuroscience and Genetics Lab, University of California, San Diego, CA, USA
Massimiliano de Zambotti
Affiliation:
Center for Health Sciences, SRI International, Menlo Park, CA, USA
Dilara Yuksel
Affiliation:
Center for Health Sciences, SRI International, Menlo Park, CA, USA
Orsolya Kiss
Affiliation:
Center for Health Sciences, SRI International, Menlo Park, CA, USA
Rena Wang
Affiliation:
Center for Health Sciences, SRI International, Menlo Park, CA, USA
Laila Volpe
Affiliation:
Center for Health Sciences, SRI International, Menlo Park, CA, USA
Devin Prouty
Affiliation:
Center for Health Sciences, SRI International, Menlo Park, CA, USA
Ian M. Colrain
Affiliation:
Center for Health Sciences, SRI International, Menlo Park, CA, USA
Duncan B. Clark
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
David B. Goldston
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, NC, USA
Kate B. Nooner
Affiliation:
Psychology Department, University of North Carolina Wilmington, Wilmington, NC, USA
Michael D. De Bellis
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, NC, USA
Sandra A. Brown
Affiliation:
Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, CA, USA
Bonnie J. Nagel
Affiliation:
School of Medicine, Oregon Health & Sciences University, Portland, OR, USA
Adolf Pfefferbaum
Affiliation:
Center for Health Sciences, SRI International, Menlo Park, CA, USA Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA
Edith V. Sullivan
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA
Fiona C. Baker*
Affiliation:
Center for Health Sciences, SRI International, Menlo Park, CA, USA Brain Function Research Group, School of Physiology, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Kilian M. Pohl
Affiliation:
Center for Health Sciences, SRI International, Menlo Park, CA, USA Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA
*
Author for correspondence: Fiona C. Baker, E-mail: fiona.baker@sri.com

Abstract

Background

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has significantly increased depression rates, particularly in emerging adults. The aim of this study was to examine longitudinal changes in depression risk before and during COVID-19 in a cohort of emerging adults in the U.S. and to determine whether prior drinking or sleep habits could predict the severity of depressive symptoms during the pandemic.

Methods

Participants were 525 emerging adults from the National Consortium on Alcohol and NeuroDevelopment in Adolescence (NCANDA), a five-site community sample including moderate-to-heavy drinkers. Poisson mixed-effect models evaluated changes in the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D-10) from before to during COVID-19, also testing for sex and age interactions. Additional analyses examined whether alcohol use frequency or sleep duration measured in the last pre-COVID assessment predicted pandemic-related increase in depressive symptoms.

Results

The prevalence of risk for clinical depression tripled due to a substantial and sustained increase in depressive symptoms during COVID-19 relative to pre-COVID years. Effects were strongest for younger women. Frequent alcohol use and short sleep duration during the closest pre-COVID visit predicted a greater increase in COVID-19 depressive symptoms.

Conclusions

The sharp increase in depression risk among emerging adults heralds a public health crisis with alarming implications for their social and emotional functioning as this generation matures. In addition to the heightened risk for younger women, the role of alcohol use and sleep behavior should be tracked through preventive care aiming to mitigate this looming mental health crisis.

Type
Original Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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Footnotes

*

Contributed equally to this work.

The manuscript was not previously published and is not under concurrent consideration for publication elsewhere.

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