COVID-19 has an effect on mental health in Tennessee

Becky Campbell • Updated Jun 11, 2020 at 11:56 PM

The novel coronavirus hasn’t just affected people physically, it’s taken a toll on the mental health of Tennesseans as well, according to a recent study at East Tennessee State University.

“Tennesseans are showing increased levels of anxiety and depressive disorder post COVID-19,” said Dr. Candace Bright, an ETSU professor and researcher. “We’re seeing high levels of mental health impact,” in the state.

The information came from the Tennessee Poll conducted by the university April 22 through May 1 by the Applied Social Research Lab.

“A national survey conducted in 2019 found that 8.2% of adults had symptoms of anxiety and 6.6% had symptoms of depressive disorder,” Bright said. “Using the same question in the Tennessee poll we found 35 percent had symptoms of anxiety.” Similarly the poll found 20 percent of people had symptoms of a depressive disorder.

Slightly more than half, 50.4%, of respondents reported they had trouble sleeping in the week before the poll — 19.4% had trouble sleeping most or all of the time, 17.7% had trouble sleeping occasionally or a moderate amount of time, and 13.3% had trouble sleeping some or a little of the time. Similarly, a majority — 53.5 percent — reported that they had felt nervous, anxious, or on edge at some point in the previous week.

Many also reported feeling depressed and lonely.

“Finally, roughly one in five respondents (18.1%) reported they had experienced physical reactions, such as sweating, trouble breathing, nausea, or a pounding heart when thinking about the COVID-19 pandemic,” Bright said.

“These reports align with the national data from Pew this year, which found that 19% of Americans have had a physical reaction when thinking about the pandemic. The CDC considers these reactions to be symptomatic of anxiety or depressive disorders when they occur ‘more than half the days or nearly every day’ of the week. By this definition, ASRL staff found that 34.6% of Tennesseans were symptomatic of anxiety and 27.1% were symptomatic of depressive disorder, which is significantly higher than the numbers reported in 2019.”

For detailed information on the poll, go to www.etsu.edu/asrl/tnpoll.