The impact of COVID-19 pandemic on depression and anxiety symptoms: Findings from the United Arab Emirates Healthy Future (UAEHFS) cohort study

Manal Al Blooshi, Tamadher Al Ameri, Maryam Al Marri, Amar Ahmad, Andrea Leinberger-Jabari, Abdishakur Abdulle, Manal Taimah, Thekra Al Zaabi, Khaloud Al Remeithi, Ayesha Al Hosani, Scott Sherman, Raghib Ali

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Significant concerns about mental health were raised during the COVID-19 pandemic. We investigated the prevalence of depression and anxiety symptoms among the participants of the United Arab Emirates Healthy Future Study (UAEHFS); a national cohort study. We further explored the change in the prevalence of depression symptoms among those with comparable pre-pandemic data. METHODS: A sample of UAEHFS participants were invited to complete a COVID-19 online questionnaire during the first wave of the pandemic. Depression and anxiety symptoms were assessed using the Patient Health Questionnaire Depression Scale (PHQ-8) and the Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 Scale (GAD-7) respectively. Unpaired analyses were done to examine the effect of COVID-19 on depression and anxiety symptoms during the pandemic. Paired analysis was conducted to examine the change in depression symptoms. RESULTS: During the pandemic, we reported a prevalence of 32.8% (95% CI: 27.0, 39.1) for depression and 26.4% (95% CI: 21.0, 32.6) for anxiety symptoms. Younger people reported higher levels of depression (40.4%) and anxiety (34.5%) symptoms. Females reported higher levels of depression (36.5%) and anxiety (32.7%) symptoms. In paired analysis, the prevalence of depression symptoms during the pandemic was 34% (95% CI: 26.5, 42.4) compared to 29.9% (95% CI: 22.7, 38.1) before the pandemic. No statistically significant difference was observed, p-value = 0.440. Adjusted multivariate logistic regression models for PHQ-8 and GAD-7 during the pandemic showed that participants, who were experiencing flu-like symptoms, had higher odds of reporting depression symptoms compared to those without symptoms. Additionally, age was significantly negatively associated with anxiety symptoms. CONCLUSIONS: Overall, we found that depression and anxiety symptoms were more prevalent among young people and females. However, we did not find a significant change in the prevalence of depression symptoms among those with comparable pre-pandemic data. Identifying vulnerable groups and understanding trajectories through longitudinal studies would help with planning for effective mental health interventions for the current and future pandemics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0277684
Pages (from-to)e0277684
JournalPloS one
Volume17
Issue number11 November
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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