Healthline Mental Health Index: Week of April 26 — Healthline.com

Mirroring the trends among the U.S. population, the percentage of Healthline users reporting symptoms of the new coronavirus continues to decline steadily. However, the percentage showing signs of moderate to severe depression, as measured by the PHQ-4 scale*, remains stable and elevated compared to the U.S. population. Additionally, we are seeing a small increase in the percentage with signs of severe depression following a steady decline over the previous 4 weeks. 

Key Findings

  • Symptoms of the virus: The percentage of Healthline users reporting symptoms of the new coronavirus continues to steadily trend down at 18% for the week of April 26 vs. 32% 4 weeks ago. It remains significantly higher than among the general U.S. population (2%).

  • Mental health: Anxiety and depression, as measured by the PHQ-4 scale*, remains stable in the week of April 26 with 39% of Healthline users showing signs of moderate or severe depression compared with 38% in the previous week. However, the percentage showing signs of severe depression is trending up slightly after a steady decline over the previous 4 weeks.

  • Health questions: “How to deal with isolation” continues to trend up as a challenging question as it has in the past 2 weeks. It is now a concern for 17% of respondents, up 5% compared to 4r weeks ago.

Comments from survey respondents point to concerns around recent developments, including states beginning to open up restrictions. Others talk about eagerness to return to a normal life:

  • I’m afraid we’re going to open the state too early and the cases are going to explode without a vaccine.

  • Terrified about going back to work… How will I be able to protect myself?

  • It’s time to open the world. We are good at social distancing and handwashing. Trust us.

  • The fear that it won’t go away ever and the threat is always there. That life won’t get back to normal.

Supporting Graphs

HL-Mental-Health-Graph-USPop_Week-4.26websafe-HL1.jpg

*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 a two-item anxiety scale. People are asked to indicate how often in the last 2 weeks they have 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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