The impact of COVID-19 pandemic on depression and anxiety symptoms: findings from the United Arab Emirates healthy future cohort study

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background and Objectives: 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 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 was invited to complete a COVID-19 online questionnaire during 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. Age was significantly negatively associated with anxiety symptoms. Conclusions: 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)142
Number of pages1
JournalPopulation Medicine
Volume5
DOIs
StatePublished - 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy
  • Health Informatics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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