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Racial Disparities Seen in Mental Health Conditions During COVID-19

FRIDAY, Feb. 5, 2021 -- Mental health conditions and substance use are common during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially among racial- and ethnic-minority groups, according to research published in the Feb. 5 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Lela R. McKnight-Eily, Ph.D., from the CDC COVID-19 Social and Behavioral Health Team, and colleagues conducted opt-in internet panel surveys of English-speaking U.S. adults aged 18 years and older in April and May 2020 to examine the prevalence of self-reported mental health conditions and substance use to cope with stress, psychosocial stressors, and social determinants of health.

The researchers found that combined prevalence estimates were 28.6, 18.2, and 8.4 percent for current depression, initiating or increasing substance use, and suicidal thoughts/ideation, respectively. Hispanics had more symptoms of current depression (40.3 percent versus 25.3 percent in non-Hispanic Whites), estimates of self-reported suicidal thoughts/ideation (22.9 percent versus 5.2 and 5.3 percent for non-Hispanic Blacks and Whites, respectively), and increased or newly initiated substance use (36.9 percent versus 14.3 to 15.6 percent for other respondents). Compared with adults in other racial and ethnic groups, Hispanic/Latino adults reported a higher prevalence of psychosocial stress related to not having enough food or stable housing.

"The mental health and psychosocial needs of U.S. adults, including persons in racial and ethnic minority groups, are an important consideration when promoting community resilience and preserving access to and provision of services during the COVID-19 pandemic," the authors write.

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