Recent surveys during the COVID-19 pandemic have documented substantial rates of depression, anxiety, and overall distress in as many as one-third of healthcare workers, the general population, and patients with COVID-19. In this survey of 82,000 respondents, administered between June 2020 and January 2021, researchers examined depressive symptoms in a subset of 3,900 participants who reported SARS-CoV-2 infection (by physician diagnosis or positive test; mean, 4 months before the survey).
More than half of the participants (52%) met the criteria for symptoms of major depression. Having headaches during infection and perceived worse severity of infection were associated with greater severity of depressive symptoms. The likelihood of depressive symptoms decreased with increasing age.
Although it is unknown whether some participants had pre-existing depression, this high rate of moderate depressive symptoms (more common with greater perceived severity of infection) could relate to residual central nervous system effects of COVID-19, social disruption from the infection experience, or psychological reaction to being infected.