Long-Term Effects of the Pandemic on Mental Health

The impact of COVID-19 on mental health has been devastating. Even as vaccinations continue to be distributed worldwide towards an end to the pandemic, the extent of mental health issues has become more evident. Many individuals struggled through more than a year of isolation having to manage changes in their physical and mental health, as well as managing access to healthcare. For chronic illness sufferers, this is compounded by the increased risk of in-person hospital and clinic visits, or not doing so and having their symptoms worsen. 

Fortunately, digital healthcare is leading the way to providing chronic illness patients with the care they need via Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM), telehealth, and telemedicine. But how badly has the pandemic impacted people’s mental health? Here’s how, and why protecting chronic illness patients’ mental health is vital. 

 

How COVID-19 Has Affected Mental Health

 

In many countries, COVID-19 forced the toughest restrictions on human freedom since the Second World War. 

UK mental health charity Young Minds surveyed over 2,400 people during the winter lockdown in January 2021. Of the participants, 44% said that this lockdown was much more challenging to cope with than the first one in spring 2020. 

The cold and dark winter might have played a bigger role, but even now that the weather has improved, many people expect to see the effects for a while to come. In the same study, 67% of participants believed that COVID-19 would have a long-term impact on their mental health.

In the US, COVID-19 had a similar effect. The Standard, an insurance company based in Oregon, surveyed 1,400 employees in the country. It found that 55% of these individuals said that the pandemic had worsened a mental health issue, while 46% said they were struggling with some mental health problem, compared to 39% the previous year. 

 

New Mental Health Conditions vs. Existing Mental Illness: How COVID Impacted Both

 

COVID-19 had a significant impact on existing mental health issues. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 13% of people in the US had either increased or began substance consumption to cope with the pandemic. In December 2020, the American Medical Association (AMA) found that 40 US states had reported a higher number of opioid-related deaths. 

These findings highlight the need for improved mental health support, and new mental health conditions resulting from COVID only make the situation worse. According to research cited on Healthline from The Lancet, 18% of people recovering from the virus experienced the onset of a mental health problem within three months. 

Further studies published in the same Healthline article revealed that many people who test positive for COVID-19 then experience post-traumatic stress disorder or another serious condition. 

These statistics show that recovering from the illness is only one part of the battle. Even if individuals don’t suffer severe symptoms, the ordeal of isolation and other related challenges still have a negative impact. 

 

The Effects of “Long COVID” on Mental Health

 

One of the most overlooked consequences of contracting the virus is what is known as “long COVID.” In simple terms, long COVID refers to suffering side effects after recovering from the original illness (e.g., fatigue, chest pain, brain fog, heart palpitations).

For most people, COVID-19 will only bring mild symptoms, which tend to go away within a few weeks. For those suffering from long COVID, however, the impact on their mental health is considerable. Depression is a common occurrence, and other long-term symptoms can lead to hopelessness, fear for the future, and even PTSD. 

 

Why Good Mental Health Is Important for Chronic Illness Sufferers

 

Managing a chronic illness physically is difficult enough without the added mental burden. Even if certain conditions aren’t curable, positive mental health can make day-to-day life a lot easier, as people often feel more capable of carrying out the necessities of life and making time for their hobbies. 

Poor mental health is known to make physical conditions worse. A person who is feeling depressed or anxious is likely to experience more intense pain and fatigue.

A lack of access to adequate support means that chronic illness sufferers experience anxiety on a number of levels:

  • Not having suitable healthcare access 
  • Being away from friends and family
  • Not feeling like anyone can relate to them 

These points have one thing in common: high-quality human interaction. Support through remote care is the key to helping chronic illness sufferers feel more empowered to battle their condition. 

 

How ChronWell Can Help

 

ChronWell offers comprehensive telehealth solutions to practices, enabling doctors to be there for chronic illness sufferers when needed. Real-time patient monitoring allows for intervention when necessary, while patients can also schedule appointments at times that suit them. 

ChronWell’s solutions, especially chronic care management (CCM), have considered both mental and physical health, enabling practices to offer better support to patients and help their institution reach its objectives. 

To find out more about ChronWell’s digital health solutions, contact an expert today. 

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