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EVMS study: pandemic triples number of Virginians struggling with mental health

The new study is called COVIDsmart and EVMS said the number of people suffering from anxiety or depression are higher than researchers had originally expected.

NORFOLK, Va. — In the last year, Eastern Virginia Medical School started researching the struggles Virginians have been facing during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The study is called "COVIDsmart," and it's meant to help target current issues to then find the best resources.

"Understanding, yes, the vaccine has come in... but people have suffered a lot," said Dr. Sunita Dodani, the principal lead investigator for COVIDsmart. "Main objective was to understand how COVID has impacted their health and their wellbeing."

Dodani is the Founding Director of the EVMS-Sentara Healthcare Analytics and Delivery Science Institute (HADSI), which is co-sponsoring the COVIDSmart project.

Among roughly 450 people who participated in this study, 22% said they were experiencing moderate to severe anxiety. Twenty-four percent reported moderate to severe depression. 

Researchers said that was triple the number of Virginians experiencing those problems since 2019.

These numbers are only for the month of March, so Dodani said they could be an underestimation of what the true numbers may be.

The volunteers filled out a survey, explaining how they felt as more time passed. Dodani said this was the best way to track their progress while taking COVID-19 safety precautions.

"Remember, these patients are newly diagnosed. They did not have anxiety or depression to begin with, so these are new cases," Dodani clarified. "So, certainly a deep-dive into the causes will help us offer them the programs which are tailored towards their need."

An EVMS spokesperson said the data will be used to help local, state and national public health officials respond to future health crises and address health disparities among medically underserved populations.

Dodani said the study is far from over and they are still looking for hundreds of more Virginia residents to volunteer. 

She said you don't have to have any special requirements to be eligible for this study - just a Virginian over the age of 18. Click here for more information and to learn how to sign up.

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