The current global pandemic due to coronavirus-2019 (COVID-19) has caused disproportionally higher levels of stress in individuals with mood disorders compared with the general population, according to the results of a population-based study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.
Adults residing in Australia were invited to contribute to a series of anonymous online surveys assessing mental health. The surveys were made available on April 1, 2020, and were open for 72 hours at the start of each month. The study is designed to continue for 12 months followed by yearly assessments until 2024. At the study start, Australia had implemented self-isolation restrictions, and residents were permitted to leave their residence only for essential activities. A total of 1292 adults with self-reported bipolar or depressive disorders and 3167 adults with no mood disorder participated in the survey.
Participants were asked to rank their concerns. The general population and those with mood disorders reported the same top 4 concerns: health and well-being of loved ones, death of loved ones, loved ones becoming infected, and well-being of society. Participants with mood disorders were next most worried about their own health, social isolation, and availability of resources. The general population weighted concern about the Australian economy more heavily compared with those with a mood disorder.
Compared with the general population, respondents with a mood disorder had been asked to work from home more (P =.001), had more difficulty working from home (P <.001), experienced altered sleep duration (P <.001), increased their drinking behavior (P <.001), perceived government restrictions to have an impact on their mental health (P <.001), had fewer nonwork-related personal contacts outside the home (P =.001), and anticipated a longer period of time for “normal” to return (P =.001).
Among respondents with mood disorders, those with bipolar disorder had higher levels of stress and depression and were more concerned about the financial impact of COVID-19 compared with those with depressive disorder. Men with bipolar disorder reported experiencing higher levels of depression compared with women with bipolar disorder.
Limitations of this study were that all mood disorders were self-reported and all changes to mental health were retrospective, as participants were not surveyed before the viral outbreak and subsequent self-quarantine.
Individuals with mood disorders, particularly men with bipolar disorder, have experienced more psychological stress from the COVID-19 pandemic than others. Adults with mood disorders were particularly concerned with the health of loved ones, with the impact on the COVID-19 pandemic on themselves and society, access to necessary resources, and the financial burden associated with the pandemics. Clinicians should be aware that individuals with mood disorders should be monitored closely as consequences due to the pandemic continue.
Van Rheenen TE, Meyer D, Neill E, et al. Mental health status of individuals with a mood-disorder during the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia: initial results from the COLLATE project. J Affect Disord. 2020;275:69-77. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2020.06.037