August 25, 2020

Association of acute anxiety with COVID-19 pandemic

By: Judy Mathias
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Editor's Note

This study from the University of California, San Diego; Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore; and Institute for Disease Modeling, Bellevue, Washington, finds that acute anxiety spiked early during the COVID-19 pandemic but has since returned to typical levels.

Researches examined internet searchers indicative of acute anxiety that originated from the US from January 1, 2004, through May 4, 2020, and compared them with search volumes after a COVID-19 national emergency was declared on March 13, 2020, through May 9, 2020.


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Acute anxiety searches were 11% higher than expected for the 58-day period from March 13 through May 9. This spike was a new all-time high for acute anxiety searches, which translates to approximately 375,000 more searchers than expected for a total of 3.4 million searches.

The largest spike in acute anxiety searches occurred on March 28, with 52% more than expected. Additionally, most excess searches occurred between March 16 and April 14, when they were 17% higher than expected.

During this time, national social distancing guidelines were first imposed and extended, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended using facemasks, the US passed China with more reported cases, and the US passed Italy for most deaths.

Searchers returned to expected levels on April 15, with all searches falling within expected prediction intervals thereafter.

Mining internet searches may improve strategies to discover and address the collateral mental health consequences of COVID-19, the researchers say.

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