ATLANTA — Levels of depression have increased worldwide during the pandemic, and experts believe it will remain that way for the foreseeable future.
According to the World Health Organization, worldwide levels of anxiety and depression increased 25% in the first year of the pandemic. The W.H.O. predicts that depression will move from third to the leading contributor to disease worldwide by 2030.
However, according to Atlanta Psychiatrist Dr. Suvrat Bhargave, it all began before COVID-19.
“Depression has been a pandemic for longer than COVID has been a pandemic,” he said.
Dr. Bhargave added that depression levels have been rising for generations. Many of the issues that have impacted mental health during the pandemic existed before and will remain after the pandemic.
“We're witnessing more and experiencing more secondary trauma by watching what other people are going through,” Dr. Bhargave added, noting "social media has been a factor.”
The W.H.O.’s World Burden of Health Study found young people who are a part of the social media generation are among the hardest hit.
“There's more a message of perfection which puts on a whole different burden and leads to high rates of anxiety,” Bharvage explained.
The W.H.O. also reported that the pandemic has exposed gaps in mental healthcare in some parts of the world, including a lack of on-line resources.
“The global changes in the patterns of people's sleep is affecting the rates of depression,” Dr. Bhargave also noted. “That includes not getting enough sleep and includes the quality of sleep. The more we talk about these things, these conversations are going to make a real difference.”
Left untreated, depression can lead to suicide, the fourth leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15-29.