2022

Confronting the ‘shadow pandemic’ of mental health disorders


UCLA Chancellor Dr. Gene Block cited research by Dr. Liwei Chen and Dr. Jian Li in a column in the April, 2022 edition of UCLA Magazine.

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block

In grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve understandably had to place most of our focus on studying and combating the disease upending society. But beyond the direct health impacts of the virus, the pandemic has had reverberations that have thrown cities, workplaces, households and individual lives — into disarray.

When it comes to secondary effects, I am particularly concerned by what has been called the “shadow pandemic” of depression and mental health disorders that COVID-19 has been leaving in its wake. From 2019 to 2021, the percentage of adults in the United States reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression increased from 11% to 30% — an astonishing, and deeply concerning, rise. Importantly, this change has been felt unevenly by people in different demographics, with those from underrepresented minority backgrounds seeing the most severe increases.

UCLA research across the disciplines has played a critical role in helping us understand the various dimensions of the problem. For instance, Liwei Chen, associate professor of epidemiology at the Fielding School of Public Health, has measured the tremendous psychological distress Americans have suffered over pandemic-related job losses and pay cuts. Among the most revealing findings was that this distress was greatest among Asian Americans and Black Americans.

In another important study, Bridget Callaghan, assistant professor of psychology, examined the significant damage that a lack of in-person social connection during the pandemic has had on both children and adults. According to Callaghan, 76% of parents with school-age children reported that their kids had been “substantially hurt, either academically or socially” due to remote learning and quarantining. And, unfortunately, anxiety is infectious; if parents were fearful about COVID-19, so were their kids.

Other UCLA research has found that members of certain identity groups suffered outsize pandemic-related harm to their mental health. A Luskin School of Public Affairs study revealed increased anxiety and loneliness among gay men because of the closing of many LGBTQ bars and social spaces.

While doing the critical work of evaluating the scope of this problem, UCLA has also been involved in seeking solutions. Scholars associated with our Depression Grand Challenge are collaborating with Apple on a long-term digital mental health study that will enable us to determine how data from digital devices can help predict the onset and trajectory of depression. The information gained may enable us to catch the signs of disorders early on and direct individuals to resources that can help.

In the past two years, people around the world have faced untold numbers of traumatic and stressful events, both large and small. Some of us have lost friends or loved ones to this frightening new disease. We’ve grappled with feelings of isolation, loneliness and the loss of experiences. Many have suffered job loss, or, at the least, have had to adapt to unfamiliar ways of working and interacting. We all became necessarily hypervigilant about health and cleanliness.

All of these experiences have clearly taken a toll on our mental health. But if there is a silver lining, it is that the pandemic has drawn much-needed attention to depression and anxiety — struggles people faced long before March of 2020 and will still encounter when the pandemic has receded into history. I am grateful that UCLA is playing a leading role in studying these mental health disorders, finding solutions and destigmatizing treatment. In the years ahead, we will continue our work toward ensuring healing and wholeness for everyone, in mind as well as in body.

Faculty Referenced by this Article

Dr. Liwei Chen
Liwei Chen

Professor in Epidemiology

Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Jian Li
Jian Li
Environmental Health Sciences Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Jian Yu Rao
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Andre Nel
André Nel
Environmental Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Daniel Uslan
Daniel Uslan
Environmental Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Jane Valentine
Jane Valentine
Environmental Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Nicole Hoff
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Timothy Brewer
Timothy Brewer
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Emily Beeler
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Feng Gao
Feng Gao
Environmental Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Brian Cole
Brian Cole
Environmental Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Robert Kim-Farley
Robert J. Kim-Farley

Robert J. Kim-Farley, MD, MPH, is a Professor-in-Residence with joint appointments in the Departments of Epidemiology and Community Health Sciences

Community Health Sciences Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Sung-Jae Lee
Sung-Jae Lee
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Peter Katona
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Bailley, Julia
Julia Bailey
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Angelo J Bellomo
Angelo Bellomo
Environmental Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Alexandra Binder Headshot
Alexandra Binder
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Arthur Winer
Environmental Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Pouran D. Faghri
Pouran D. Faghri
Environmental Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Amy Wohl
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Elizabeth Rose Mayeda photo
Elizabeth Rose Mayeda
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Paul Dluzniewski
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Paul Hsu
Paul Hsu
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Frank J. Sorvillo
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Susan Cochran
Susan Cochran
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Karin Michels
Karin B. Michels
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Michael Collins
Michael Collins
Environmental Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Dvora Joseph Davey
Dvora Joseph Davey

Dr. Joseph Davey is an infectious disease epidemiologist with over 20 years' experience leading research on HIV/STI services for women and children.

Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Dallas Swendeman
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Su Yong Jung
Su Yon Jung
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Onyebuchi Arah headshot
Onyebuchi A. Arah
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Teresa Ellen Seeman
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Kevin Njabo
Kevin Njabo
Environmental Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Roberta Malmgren
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Arabzadah, Hamid
Hamid Arabzadeh
Environmental Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
DerSarkissian, Maral
Maral DerSarkissian
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Tao Huai
Tao Huai
Environmental Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Anne Coleman
Anne Coleman
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Brian Bradbury
Brian Bradbury
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Nathan Wong
Nathan D. Wong
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Richard J. Jackson
Richard J. Jackson
Environmental Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Hashibe, Mia
Mia Hashibe
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Otoniel Martinez-Maza
Otoniel Martinez-Maza
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Catherine Carpenter
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Ralph R. Frerichs, 12/25/21
Ralph R. Frerichs
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Mel Suffet
Irwin Suffet
Environmental Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Roger Detels
Roger Detels
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
sheena sullivan photo
Sheena G. Sullivan
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Marissa J. Seamans
Marissa Seamans
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Kamyar Kalantar-Zadeh
Kamyar Kalantar-Zadeh
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Akihiro Nishi Headshot
Akihiro Nishi
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Shane Que Hee
Shane Que Hee

Industrial Hygiene & Analytical Chemistry

Environmental Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Pamina Gorbach
Pamina Gorbach
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Lara Cushing
Lara Cushing
Environmental Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Kirsten Schwarz
Environmental Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Haroutune Armenian
Haroutune Armenian
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Woman dressed in blue and wearing pearls and eye glasses
Lisa V. Smith
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Rachael Jones
Rachael Jones
Environmental Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Jørn Olsen
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Kelika Konda
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Wendie Robbins
Wendie Robbins
Environmental Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Ondine S. von Ehrenstein
Community Health Sciences Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Julia Heck
Julia Heck
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Rosenstock
Linda Rosenstock
Environmental Health Sciences Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Paul Simon Headshot
Paul Simon
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Jesus Araujo
Environmental Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Richard Ambrose
Richard Ambrose
Environmental Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Aziz, Najib headshot_2023
Najib Aziz
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Jody Heymann
Jody Heymann
Epidemiology Health Policy and Management
Read Faculty Profile
Naomi Greene
Naomi Greene
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Headshot
Christie Jeon
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Arthur Cho
Arthur Cho
Environmental Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Niklas Krause
Environmental Health Sciences Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Oliver Hankinson
Oliver Hankinson

Dr. Hankinson is a Distinguished Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and of EHS, and Chair of the Molecular Toxicology IDP

Environmental Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Ximena Vergara
Ximena Vergara
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Annette Regan
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Nina Harawa
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Anne Rimoin
Anne Rimoin
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Michael Jerrett
Michael Jerrett
Environmental Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Pablo Cicero-Fernandez
Pablo Cicero-Fernandez
Environmental Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Sander Greenland
Sander Greenland
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Miriam Marlier
Miriam Marlier
Environmental Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Noel Weiss
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Zuo-Feng Zhang
Zuo-Feng Zhang
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Shira Shafir
Shira Shafir
Community Health Sciences Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Jared Diamond
Jared Diamond
Environmental Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Lawrence Ash
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Peter R. Kerndt
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Vonthanak Saphonn
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Jonathan Jacobs
Jonathan Jacobs
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Robert Schiestl
Robert Schiestl
Environmental Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Tony Kuo
Tony Kuo
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Marjan Javanbakht
Marjan Javanbakht
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Roch Nianogo
Roch A. Nianogo
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Beate Ritz
Beate Ritz
Environmental Health Sciences Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Matthew Mimiaga
Matthew J. Mimiaga
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Yifang Zhu
Yifang Zhu
Environmental Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Timothy Malloy
Environmental Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Candace Tsai
Candace Tsai

Associate Professor for Industrial Hygiene and Environmental Health Sciences

Environmental Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Curtis Eckhert
Curtis Eckhert
Environmental Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Leeka I. Kheifets
Epidemiology
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Nicole Green
Environmental Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile

Related Content

electriv vehicle
December 13, 2023
Electric vehicles improve air quality for everyone but have less impact in more polluted areas

Although electric vehicle ownership is higher in wealthier neighborhoods than in disadvantaged ones, EVs improve air quality in all communities, a UCLA study found.

Source: UCLA Newsroom Read Full Article
Clarivate+researchers
November 16, 2023
UCLA Fielding faculty listed among world’s most influential researchers
Read Full Article