Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Pandemic stress could prompt spike in rural mental health problems and suicides; see county-level estimates

Estimated additional deaths of despair between 2020-2029 (Click the image to enlarge it)
Mental health issues and deaths of despair, or those caused by depression-related suicide or substance abuse, have been increasing over the past decade, but stress from the pandemic could cause a spike in such deaths, according to a recent paper by the Well Being Trust, a mental health and substance abuse research nonprofit, and the Robert Graham Center, a primary care research organization affiliated with the American Academy of Family Physicians.

An increase in deaths of despair could disproportionately affect rural residents, who are at a higher risk of such deaths. Racial and ethnic minorities and people with lower incomes are also at higher risk, especially those with more than one risk factor.

The paper considers nine possible future scenarios, including ones with quick economic recovery, slow economic recovery, and somewhere in between, along with other factors. The fastest recovery could result in an additional 27,644 deaths of despair, and the slowest recovery could lead to an additional 154,037 deaths of despair, according to the paper.

The authors suggest ways to mitigate the increase in deaths of despair, including finding ways to decrease social isolation. Read more here.

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