A study by the University of Oslo, seen as one of the first to gauge the effect of the current pandemic on mental health, has indicated that anxiety and depression symptoms in adults have more than tripled during measures to beat the novel coronavirus.
“As in previous major pandemics, we see a clear increase in anxiety and depression symptoms,” Omid Ebrahimi, a fellow at the Department of Psychology at the University of Oslo, told national broadcaster NRK.
The results are based on a representative study of 10,084 adults during the first three weeks of lockdown.
“It is very important to mention that for most people this will be temporary when the control measures are gradually eased, but for some these symptoms will have long-term consequences, and we will continue to monitor this,” Ebrahimi stressed.
At the same time, the growing concern felt among the population has been measured elsewhere.
Church SOS, the country's largest 24-hour telephone and internet crisis hotline, saw a 25 percent increase in calls between mid-March and late April.
“What has increased most are calls about suicidal thoughts”, Lene Hopland Bergset of Church SOS said.
Of the 4,260 registered calls about suicidal thoughts, 533 were considered serious or acute, three times as many as last year.
Bergset also noted a spike in first-time callers who “feel the need to talk to someone”.
Fredrik Walby, a psychologist and researcher at the National Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention, saw a clear connection between the findings of the study and the increase in conversations about suicidal thoughts.
“It's crystal clear. When more people struggle with depression and anxiety, it is natural for more people to have suicidal thoughts,” Walby mused. “If one has struggled a bit with anxiety, loneliness and depression before, it will be worse now with more withdrawal and isolation,” he added, citing worse follow-up as a result of strained healthcare.
Walby pointed out that it is natural for people to have more difficult thoughts now than otherwise, and urged society to show tolerance.gradually re-open in late April, following a month of restrictions.
While the nation remains relatively mildly hit by the novel coronavirus per se, with 8,175 confirmed cases, 229 deaths and over 7,100 recoveries, financial reports have warned about the worst economic crisis in living memory looming as a result of lockdown, with unemployment soaring to Great Depression-era levels.