WHO defines “health” not only as the absence of disease or physical weakness,
but also as a person’s mental well-being and social resilience
Since the Covid-19 breakout, more than 70 million extra people worldwide have suffered from depression, 90 million have suffered from anxiety, and hundreds of millions have experienced sleep disorders. A recent report released by the World Health Organization also shows that the global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by a 25% during the first year of the Covid-19 breakout.
Mental health impact of Covid-19 will last at least two decades
Many people around the world are suffering from depression and insomnia as a result of the pandemic. Researchers in the UK found that the number of insomniacs in the UK rose from one in six previously to one in four during the pandemic. As the pandemic continues into its third year, more people may experience insomnia due to prolonged social detachment, blurred work-life boundaries and uncertainty about the future.
In February, a team of researchers led by Ziyad Al-Aly (Chief, Research and Development Service) published the results of a study on the long-term effects of the pandemic on mental health in the British Medical Journal. The study used data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The study shows a 60 percent increased risk of mental health diagnosis or prescription in the pandemic group compared to the control group. Also, there is a 35 percent increased risk of anxiety disorders, a 39 percent increased risk of depression, a 38 percent increased risk of stress and adjustment disorders and a 55 percent increased risk of antidepressant use. In addition, there is an 80% increased risk of cognitive impairment and a 41% increased risk of sleep disorders.
As early as May 2020, Lu Lin, an academician of Chinese Academy of Sciences and an expert in psychiatry and clinical medicine, guided the post-pandemic rehabilitation and psychological relief work in Wuhan, Hubei Province. In August, the Sixth Hospital of Peking University, where Lu Lin is an academician, established a post-traumatic stress disorder treatment center in cooperation with Wuhan Mental Health Center to help Wuhan residents get out of the psychological shadows.
In Lu Lin’s view, the impact of the pandemic on adolescents’ mental health is more direct. During the pandemic, Lu Lin saw a large number of adolescents with mental problems in his medical clinic. They were isolated at home for long periods because of the pandemic, and their biorhythms were reversed, they were addicted to games, and lacked outdoor exercise and social interaction. When the lock-down ended, they became depressed, afraid to meet people, and reluctant to go out, and many could not even return to school normally. Lu Lin holds that this psychological impact of the pandemic will last for at least 20 years. The mental impact of the pandemic on humans has received widespread attention.
Depression and anxiety are the most common mental problems now
WHO defines “health” not only as the absence of disease or physical weakness, but also as a state of mental well-being and good social resilience. In a mentally healthy state, individuals are able to recognize their own abilities, cope with the normal stresses of daily life, work productively, and contribute to the society in which they live. More specifically, a mentally healthy person is interested in his or her work, is self-accepting, is able to regulate his or her emotions, adapts well to the environment and has good interpersonal relationships.
But the fact is that there are more than 400 known mental illnesses, the most common being depression, anxiety and various types of sleep disorders. It can be said that mental illness is a storm that takes place in an individual’s life. “The prevalence of depression is about 7 percent in China and more than 10 percent in Europe and the United States.” Lu Lin said. “And the prevalence of anxiety is about 7% in China, and 15% in many countries. In addition, 20% to 30% of adults have various sleep problems, and about 15% of them become diseases and need to be treated in hospitals.”
At least 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression. Among them, adolescents, retired elderly, people living alone, and postpartum women are at high risk of depression. Patients experience significant and persistent low mood, diminished interest, low self-esteem and self-doubt and, in severe cases, suicidal thoughts.
Depression can also manifest itself as sleep disorders. Long-term clinical experience has given Lu Lin a delicate discovery: “The patients either are unable to fall asleep or sleep too much. If a healthy person suddenly becomes uninterested in his work, uninterested in things around him, has a bit of low self-esteem, doesn’t want to interact with others, often feels uncomfortable in his body, and even feels that his brain is not working well, this may be a manifestation of depression.” Depression is often related to seasons and is usually more severely manifested during the day and less severe during the night. Many people have experienced similar emotions due to various difficulties and stresses, but not all depressed moods are depression. Lu Lin suggests, “If the symptoms last more than two weeks, make sure to see a doctor.”
The main symptom of anxiety is the inability to get rid of excessive worries. “Worrying about the weather today, worrying about what will happen on the way, worrying that he can’t do anything right, or worrying that his family or himself will get sick, are all signs of anxiety.” Lu Lin said. Anxiety can have many physical manifestations, such as insomnia, sweating, chest distress, panic, hypersensitivity and so on.
As the most common psychological disorders, both depression and anxiety are currently well treatable. However, only about 20% of people in China currently recognize that depression and anxiety need to be treated, while most people do not recognize them as illnesses or choose not to face the issue head-on.
In the last three years, the stress of daily life in China, as in other countries around the world, due to the pandemic has been obvious. “Although the business has resumed in many places, the many precautions that must be taken every day, as well as the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, have added more stress to an already very stressful life.
“When your mood gets bad, you can adjust it by taking a vacation, having a rest or communicating with friends, etc. Go to bed before 12 p.m. and don’t stay up late.” Lu Lin stressed that frequent mouth ulcers, panic and palpitations, chest distress, stomachache, and decreased appetite are all signs of abnormalities in the body. “It is recommended to keep up a certain extent of socialization and exercise for half an hour to an hour every day.”