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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.
Loneliness is a growing public health issue in the developed world. Among older adults, loneliness is a particular challenge, as the older segment of the population is growing and loneliness is comorbid with many mental as well as physical health issues. Comorbidity and common cause factors make identifying the antecedents of loneliness difficult, however, contemporary machine learning techniques are positioned to tackle this problem.
This study analyzed four cohorts of older individuals, split into two age groups – 45–69 and 70–79 – to examine which common psychological and sociodemographic are associated with loneliness at different ages. Gradient boosted modeling, a machine learning technique, and regression models were used to identify and replicate associations with loneliness.
In all cohorts, higher emotional stability was associated with lower loneliness. In the older group, social circumstances such as living alone were also associated with higher loneliness. In the younger group, extraversion's association with lower loneliness was the only other confirmed relationship.
Different individual and social factors might underlie loneliness differences in distinct age groups. Machine learning methods have the potential to unveil novel associations between psychological and social variables, particularly interactions, and mental health outcomes.
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