Through the COVID-19 pandemic, one unexpected outcome is the raised collective awareness around mental health and wellness. During the pandemic, researchers have observed declines in mental health and well-being in some areas. While a number of factors besides physical activity have contributed to these changes over the past year, it remains that physical activity is a relatively accessible and important strategy for maintaining mental health.
5 Facts About Mental Health & Exercise During the COVID-19 Pandemic
1. COVID-19 has been linked to unfavorable changes in mental health and well-being
COVID-19 has had a visible, adverse effect on mental health. According to a new Kaiser Permanente brief, “The Implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health and Substance Use,” 4 in 10 U.S. adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorders during the pandemic, compared to just 1 in 10 in 2019. A study from the Boston University School of Public Health found similar results, finding that depression rates tripled during COVID-19, skyrocketing to 27.8% from around 8.5% pre-pandemic.
Young adults (those aged 18-24) were most affected. According to the Kaiser Permanente brief, this group was more likely to:
- report depressive symptoms,
- use substances, and
- contemplate suicide.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, young adults more frequently reported COVID-19-related trauma, starting or increasing substance use to cope with COVID-19-related stress and serious suicidal ideation in the previous 30 days. In the study, one-quarter of young adults seriously considered suicide during the last 30 days. An International Labor Organization survey on COVID-19 in younger people found that 1 in 2 adults aged 18-29 were affected by depression and anxiety, and 20% of healthcare workers suffered from anxiety and depression.