Indications of Depressive Symptoms During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Germany: Comparison of National Survey and Twitter Data

Caroline Cohrdes, Seren Yenikent, Jiawen Wu, Bilal Ghanem, Marc Franco-Salvador, Felicitas Vogelsang, Robert Koch-Institut
The current COVID-19 pandemic is associated with extensive individual and societal challenges, including challenges to both physical and mental health. To date, the development of mental health problems such as depressive symptoms accompanying population-based federal distancing measures is largely unknown, and opportunities for rapid, effective, and valid monitoring are currently a relevant matter of investigation. Objective: In this study, we aim to investigate, first, the temporal
more » ... of depressive symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic and, second, the consistency of the results from tweets and survey-based self-reports of depressive symptoms within the same time period. Methods: Based on a cross-sectional population survey of 9011 German adolescents and adults (n=4659, 51.7% female; age groups from 15 to 50 years and older) and a sample of 88,900 tweets (n=74,587, 83.9% female; age groups from 10 to 50 years and older), we investigated five depressive symptoms (eg, depressed mood and energy loss) using items from the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-8) before, during, and after relaxation of the first German social contact ban from January to July 2020. Results: On average, feelings of worthlessness were the least frequently reported symptom (survey: n=1011, 13.9%; Twitter: n=5103, 5.7%) and fatigue or loss of energy was the most frequently reported depressive symptom (survey: n=4472, 51.6%; Twitter: n=31,005, 34.9%) among both the survey and Twitter respondents. Young adult women and people living in federal districts with high COVID-19 infection rates were at an increased risk for depressive symptoms. The comparison of the survey and Twitter data before and after the first contact ban showed that German adolescents and adults had a significant decrease in feelings of fatigue and energy loss over time. The temporal progression of depressive symptoms showed high correspondence between both data sources (ρ=0.76-0.93; P
doi:10.25646/8750 fatcat:gkjmogm6bnhshhnz6r6gls6tgm