The magnitude of major depressive symptoms differed significantly on the basis of previous infection with COVID-19. These findings, from a survey, were published in JAMA Network Open.

Every month between May 2020 and February 2021, 12 waves of internet-based surveys were conducted through the vendor PureSpectrum by researchers at Harvard Medical School. Adult participants (N=61,472) were assessed for sociodemographic characteristics, COVID-19 illness, and symptoms of depression.

Respondents were aged mean 42.34 (standard deviation [SD], 16.36) years, 67.0% were women, 10.5% were Black, 7.3% were Hispanic, 5.8% were Asian, 24.2% lived in urban locations, 40.1% completed some college, and median annual income was $49,000 (interquartile range [IQR], $22,500-$85,000).

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Clinical diagnoses of COVID-19 were reported by 6.5% of respondents and 31.2% said they had moderate or increased symptoms of depression.

Among individuals who had a COVID-19 diagnosis, symptoms of depression associated with gender (z, -9.58; P <.001), income (z, −9.75; P <.001), Black vs White ethnicity (z, 3.02; P =.003), and urban vs rural location (z, 2.89; P =.004).

Those who had COVID-19 scored significantly higher on patient health questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) questions about suicidality (mean, 2.50 vs 1.99 points; t, -24.83; P <.001) and motor symptoms (mean, 2.58 vs 2.11 points; t, -23.74; P <.001).

The investigators observed a temporal pattern of depressive symptoms, in which for every additional month since acute COVID-19 illness, symptoms of depression increased (odds ratio [OR], 1.07; 95% CI, 1.05-1.09). This association was increased after correcting for the time of the survey, location, and sociodemographic characteristics (adjusted OR [aOR], 1.09; 95% CI, 1.07-1.11).

This study may have been limited with relying on the PHQ-9 assessment which only includes a subset of depressive symptoms.

The results of this study may suggest that after acute COVID-19 infection, some patients may experience increased symptoms of depression. It remains unclear whether these trends are caused by long-term sequalae of the disease or from increased stress and isolation associated with the global pandemic. Additional studies are needed to validate these findings.

Disclosure: An author declared affiliations with industry. Please refer to the original article for a full list of disclosures.


Perlis RH, Santillana M, Ognyanova K, et al. Factors associated with self-reported symptoms of depression among adults with and without a previous COVID-19 diagnosis. JAMA Netw Open. Published online June 11, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.16612

This article originally appeared on Psychiatry Advisor