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The COVID-19 pandemic and mitigation measures are likely to have a marked effect on mental health. It is important to use longitudinal data to improve inferences.
To quantify the prevalence of depression, anxiety and mental well-being before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, to identify groups at risk of depression and/or anxiety during the pandemic.
Data were from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) index generation (n = 2850, mean age 28 years) and parent generation (n = 3720, mean age 59 years), and Generation Scotland (n = 4233, mean age 59 years). Depression was measured with the Short Mood and Feelings Questionnaire in ALSPAC and the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 in Generation Scotland. Anxiety and mental well-being were measured with the Generalised Anxiety Disorder Assessment-7 and the Short Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale.
Depression during the pandemic was similar to pre-pandemic levels in the ALSPAC index generation, but those experiencing anxiety had almost doubled, at 24% (95% CI 23–26%) compared with a pre-pandemic level of 13% (95% CI 12–14%). In both studies, anxiety and depression during the pandemic was greater in younger members, women, those with pre-existing mental/physical health conditions and individuals in socioeconomic adversity, even when controlling for pre-pandemic anxiety and depression.
These results provide evidence for increased anxiety in young people that is coincident with the pandemic. Specific groups are at elevated risk of depression and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is important for planning current mental health provisions and for long-term impact beyond this pandemic.
Higher health literacy is associated with higher cognitive function and better health. Despite its wide use in medical research, no study has investigated the genetic contributions to health literacy. Using 5783 English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) participants (mean age = 65.49, SD = 9.55) who had genotyping data and had completed a health literacy test at wave 2 (2004–2005), we carried out a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of health literacy. We estimated the proportion of variance in health literacy explained by all common single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). Polygenic profile scores were calculated using summary statistics from GWAS of 21 cognitive and health measures. Logistic regression was used to test whether polygenic scores for cognitive and health-related traits were associated with having adequate, compared to limited, health literacy. No SNPs achieved genome-wide significance for association with health literacy. The proportion of variance in health literacy accounted for by common SNPs was 8.5% (SE = 7.2%). Greater odds of having adequate health literacy were associated with a 1 standard deviation higher polygenic score for general cognitive ability [OR = 1.34, 95% CI (1.26, 1.42)], verbal-numerical reasoning [OR = 1.30, 95% CI (1.23, 1.39)], and years of schooling [OR = 1.29, 95% CI (1.21, 1.36)]. Reduced odds of having adequate health literacy were associated with higher polygenic profiles for poorer self-rated health [OR = 0.92, 95% CI (0.87, 0.98)] and schizophrenia [OR = 0.91, 95% CI (0.85, 0.96)). The well-documented associations between health literacy, cognitive function and health may partly be due to shared genetic etiology. Larger studies are required to obtain accurate estimates of SNP-based heritability and to discover specific health literacy-associated genetic variants.
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