Longitudinal evidence for persistent anxiety in young adults through COVID-19 restrictions
Wellcome Open Research
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and related mitigation measures are associated with poorer mental health in cross-sectional and longitudinal surveys. However, it's unclear if this represents an adaptive response to an unprecedented event that is short lived, or the beginning of longer mental health problems that persist beyond the initial outbreak of the pandemic. We used data from the index generation of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (young people aged
... oung people aged 26-29) to examine anxiety at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic (April 2020) and again once restrictions were eased (June 2020). We compared these to two pre-pandemic assessments of anxiety measured 2013/2014 and 2015/17. We found that the percentage of individuals with anxiety was almost double during the COVID-19 assessments compared to pre-pandemic levels, with 15% of individuals having anxiety at both occasions (persistent anxiety). Being female, those with per-existing mental health conditions, a history of financial problems and those who had reported difficulties accessing mental health information were at greater risk of persistent anxiety. Our findings suggest that anxiety in response to COVID-19 is not just an initial reaction but potentially the start of a persistent problem that extends beyond the pandemic. Efforts must be made to address risk groups who could be disproportionally affected as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and related mitigation measures.