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There are limited longitudinal studies on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health and well-being, including the effects of imposed restrictions and lockdowns.
This study investigates how living in a pandemic, and related lockdowns and restrictions, affected the mental health of people living in Australia during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A total of 875 people living in Australia participated in a longitudinal survey from 27 May to 14 December 2020. This time period includes dates that span pre-, during and post-wave 2 lockdowns in Australia, with strict and sustained public health measures. Linear mixed models were fitted to investigate the effect of lockdown on depression and anxiety symptoms.
Symptoms of depression and anxiety improved over time, during and after lockdowns. More adverse mental health symptoms were observed for people with a history of medical or mental health problems, caring responsibilities, more neurotic personality traits or less conscientiousness, and for people who were younger. People who reported being more conscientious reported better mental health.
Despite notoriously strict lockdowns, participants did not experience a deterioration of mental health over time. Results suggest a lack of significant adverse effects of lockdown restrictions on mental health and well-being. Findings highlight cohorts that could benefit from targeted mental health support and interventions, so that public policy can be better equipped to support them, particularly if future strict public health measures such as lockdowns are being considered or implemented for the COVID-19 pandemic and other disasters.
People with neuropsychiatric symptoms often experience delay in accurate diagnosis. Although cerebrospinal fluid neurofilament light (CSF NfL) shows promise in distinguishing neurodegenerative disorders (ND) from psychiatric disorders (PSY), its accuracy in a diagnostically challenging cohort longitudinally is unknown.
We collected longitudinal diagnostic information (mean = 36 months) from patients assessed at a neuropsychiatry service, categorising diagnoses as ND/mild cognitive impairment/other neurological disorders (ND/MCI/other) and PSY. We pre-specified NfL > 582 pg/mL as indicative of ND/MCI/other.
Diagnostic category changed from initial to final diagnosis for 23% (49/212) of patients. NfL predicted the final diagnostic category for 92% (22/24) of these and predicted final diagnostic category overall (ND/MCI/other vs. PSY) in 88% (187/212), compared to 77% (163/212) with clinical assessment alone.
CSF NfL improved diagnostic accuracy, with potential to have led to earlier, accurate diagnosis in a real-world setting using a pre-specified cut-off, adding weight to translation of NfL into clinical practice.
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