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COVID19 related anxiety levels are high, survey finds

Lankenau Medical Center June 24, 2020 Research News
Last Updated on June 24, 2020

Results of a COVID-19 consumer survey distributed by the Main Line Health Center for Population Health Research (CPHR) at the Lankenau Institute for Medical Research found that more than half of respondents younger than 40 had anxiety levels that generally warrant either a referral for consultation with a behavioral health provider or additional conversation and counseling with a primary care provider.

CPHR investigators devised and distributed an online survey that sought to gauge how the COVID-19 pandemic was impacting people’s health, wellness, careers and finances. The researchers added to the survey several questions that draw from a screening tool for generalized anxiety disorder, called GAD-2. A GAD-2 score of 3 or higher is considered to be positive for anxiety.

“Worryingly, we found that nearly 46 percent of all survey respondents met the criteria for anxiety,” said Sharon Larson, PhD, executive director of CPHR. “Drilling down even further we found that more than half of those aged 40 and younger were found to have GAD-2 scores of 3 or higher, so they have generalized anxiety about the pandemic. We suspect this is due to financial- and employment-related worries among those in this age group.”

The survey was distributed online at the beginning of the U.S. lockdown, from March 19 through April 24,2020. About 5,600 people from around the country answered all or most of the survey questions. The survey took about 10 minutes to complete; results are anonymous and are being used for research purposes only.

“The real concern from these results is the long-term health of the population,” added Dr. Larson, who is trained as a psychiatric epidemiologist. “We know that generalized anxiety disorder often co-occurs with depressive disorders, chronic pain, substance use disorders, social phobia and panic disorders. And it is more likely to be reported in lower socioeconomic groups. We’re worried about the ripple effect this pandemic will have on people’s health in the future,” she said.

While the survey also found that most respondents, understandably, were concerned about getting COVID-19, it also discovered that about a quarter of them said they did not have enough food in their homes to last two weeks — suggesting clinicians may begin seeing some patients with conditions complicated by dietary challenges.

The CPHR team is compiling these and other results of the survey and submitting papers to peer-reviewed journals. In this way, CPHR investigators hope to alert the larger health care community of the possible downstream implications of the pandemic.

About CPHR

Founded in 2016, CPHR is a collaboration between Main Line Health and Thomas Jefferson University’s College of Population Health. The research center, which is located at the Lankenau Institute for Medical Research, seeks to advance the understanding of population health by being a research and educational partner to Main Line Health, informing and assessing initiatives to improve the health status and quality of life in the myriad communities it serves. CPHR investigators spearhead studies that aim to illuminate the underlying socioeconomic challenges inherent or under-addressed by current care models.