Salt Lake City, Utah — Sunday morning Intermountain Healthcare released a study that found nearly 40% of patients reported new or continuing symptoms of depression during the first year of the pandemic.
This led to an increase in emergency room visits for chest pain and anxiety treatment.
The study examined 4,633 Intermountain Healthcare patients who completed a depression screening before and during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. This study was first presented at the American Heart Association’s virtual 2021 Scientific Session.
For the study patients were divided into two categories, those with no depression/no longer depressed, and those who became/remained depressed. Patients were then assessed for follow-up emergency visits for anxiety and chest pain.
According to the study, among patients with depression, depression scores were higher during the first year of the pandemic than before. Patients with depression were also found to be 2.8 times more likely to visit the emergency room for chest pain and 1.8 times more likely to have anxiety with chest pain compared to non-depressed patients.
“If people are becoming more depressed because of the pandemic, in a few years, we could see a higher incidence of cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. Heidi T. May, a cardiovascular epidemiologist at the Intermountain Healthcare Heart Institute who was the principal investigator for the study, in a statement released by Intermountain.
According to Dr. May, a longer period of follow-up is needed to determine the potential long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on patients’ mental health.
“Clinicians should be acutely aware of their patient’s mental health so that it can be addressed and treated immediately to improve the overall quality of their lives, and hopefully avoid the development of subsequent health problems in the future,” said Dr. May. “This is vital because the pandemic is still not over.”