The nationally representative 1,400-person survey conducted between March 31 and April 13 of this year found that prior to the pandemic, only 9% of respondents reported depressive symptoms. However, once the pandemic took hold of the United States, that figure spiked to 28% of respondents.
However, while mental health effects in the aftermath of large-scale traumatic events are well-documented, lead author of the JAMA Network Open study Catherine Ettman, told HealthDay on Wednesday the researchers were "surprised at the high levels of depression."
"These rates were higher than what we've seen in the general population after other large-scale traumas like September 11 and Hurricane Katrina," Ettman said.
Ettman further explained that because the results of the pandemic are a combination of fear, anxiety and disparate economic consequences, the virus has most negatively impacted front-line workers and marginalized U.S. residents.
Forty-seven percent of people with a household income of less than $20,000 and 41% of people with household savings under $5,000 said they had experienced symptoms of depression.
Additional stressors like the loss of a job or the death of a family member were also linked to those who confirmed these symptoms. Although, researchers were notably unable to investigate regional differences in depression.
"This calls for us paying attention to mental health problems that are arising at this moment that will need attention in the coming months and years," Ettman said.
Suicide rates in the U.S. were on the rise before the pandemic, though experts worry that they could still be driven higher.
Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said a panel survey of more than 5,400 people found that nearly 11% of U.S. adults reported seriously contemplating suicide in June.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741, or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.