Coronavirus pandemic a ‘perfect storm’ for mental health issues, SDSU prof says


SAN DIEGO – From worrying about illness to losing potential income to isolation, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on people’s mental health.

Jean Twenge, an author and psychology professor at San Diego State University.

Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, calls it a “perfect storm for a crisis.”

“Before this, when was the last time you worried about getting sick going to the grocery store? That’s our everyday lives now,” Twenge said. “We’re trying to wash our hands, remember our masks when we go out. Those are these everyday stressors that can add up.”

A new study from researchers including Twenge shows about 70 percent of Americans are dealing with moderate-to-severe mental distress. Twenge, the author of the book, “I-Gen,” which examines mental health issues in teens and young adults, said younger adults โ€” aged between 18 and 44 โ€” are being hit the hardest.

They’re more likely than other demographics to lose jobs and have children at home, according to the study. Those more vulnerable to the virus โ€” typically, adults ages 65 and older โ€” actually are less distressed, Twenge said.

“They have weathered a long life, a lot of challenges,” she said. “They are also less likely to have experienced the loss of a job or income during the pandemic.”

Another significant concern is anxiety leading to depression as well as rising suicide rates, she said. But Twenge said it’s still too early to tell whether the COVID-19 shutdown will end up having done more harm than good.

“As more stores open, people are able to travel moreโ€ฆ that will help,” she said, “but if the jobs donโ€™t come back, then the stress is still going to be there.”

More information including how to seek local mental health resources is available by using 2-1-1 San Diego or contacting the National Alliance on Mental Illness of San Diego at 800-253-5933.

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