COVID-19 Prompts Special Challenges for People Living with a Health Condition

It isn’t exactly new information that people with underlying health conditions have been hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. But the situation continues to develop week by week as we survey users and dive deeper into the data. YouGov’s weekly global COVID-19 tracker — for which YouGov and Healthline partnered to introduce five custom mental health questions as part of the group’s data collection — uncovers some interesting differences and realities between those who live with a health condition and those who do not.

People living with a health condition remain more fearful of contracting the virus (58%) than those who do not (50%). However, their level of fear has declined week over week since the outbreak began — data from early April showed 64% were fearful of contracting the virus. 

Unless otherwise noted, the following results reflect survey data captured from April 30 to May 6, 2020.

Emotional health

People living with an underlying health condition are more affected by anxiety and depression: 24% show signs of moderate to severe depression versus 15% of those without a health condition (based on the PHQ-4 scale*). Compared with earlier study data, anxiety and depression increased slightly among people with a health condition and declined slightly among those without one (+3% vs. -4%).

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Information needs

People living with a health condition have different concerns and information needs. How seriously they could get sick if they contracted the virus is their primary worry (37%); the top concern of people who don’t have a health condition is how to avoid getting sick (26%). 

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In addition, people living with a health condition are more likely to say that they’ve had difficulty finding information about managing anxiety and stress (17%) compared to people who don’t have a health condition (12%).

Top 4 condition-specific insights

Naturally, people living with different health conditions have different concerns. We analyzed condition segments across the following categories to reveal the trends: allergies, cardiovascular (high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease), chronic pain, digestive (IBD, Crohn’s), mental health (anxiety, depression, bipolar), respiratory (asthma, COPD), rheumatoid arthritis, type 2 diabetes, and weight management.

  • Who’s struggling the most with their emotional health? (based on the PHQ-4 scale*)

    • Mental health — 42% (+3% vs. previous wave)

    • Digestive — 37% (+4%)

    • Rheumatoid arthritis — 36% (+9%)

    • Respiratory — 30% (+5%)

  • Where are we seeing the most positive improvements for anxiety and depression?

    • Type 2 diabetes — down 5% vs. previous wave

    • Chronic pain — down 8%

  • Among whom does fear of contracting the virus still remain high? 

    • Respiratory — 71% 

    • Digestive — 68%

    • Mental health — 66% 

  • Who’s less fearful of contracting the virus now?

    • Cardiovascular — 56% in the most recent wave (down 15% vs. initially surveyed) 

    • Type 2 diabetes — 59% in the most recent wave (down 8%) 



For more information about this research, please email us at corpmarketing@healthline.com or contact your Healthline Media representative. 


Other Relevant COVID-19 Insights


*For reference, the four-item Patient Health Questionnaire-4 (PHQ-4) is a brief and validated questionnaire that consists of a two-item depression scale and two-item anxiety scale. People are asked to indicate how often in the last 2 weeks they’ve been bothered by “feeling nervous, anxious, or on edge;” “not being able to stop or control worrying;” “little interest or pleasure in doing things;” and “feeling down, depressed, or hopeless.” The first two items provide a measure of anxiety and the last two a measure of depression. Responses are scored from 0 to 3 with responses “not at all” scored as 0, “several days” as 1, “more than half the days” as 2, and “nearly every day” as 3. Scores equal or greater than 3 across the first 2 questions suggest anxiety. Scores equal or greater than 3 across the last two questions suggest depression. Total scores on the PHQ-4 scale are determined by adding together the scores of each of the four items and are rated as normal (0–2), mild (3–5), moderate (6–8), and severe (9–12).

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