In the period after a peak in the case of COVID-19, blacks experienced a 14% increase in visits to trauma and stress-related disorders compared to during the actual increase. Similarly, Latino populations had a 24.3% increase in visits to bipolar disorder, and white people had an 11.5% increase in visits to schizophrenia spectrum disorders after an increase, the study found.
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Asian populations maintained stability in ED visits for several disorders following COVID-19 increases, but had a 26.6% increase in depressive disorder-related visits and a 31.6% decrease in visits with schizophrenia spectrum disorders.
For Native American or Alaska natives, anxiety and schizophrenia spectrum-related ED visits were stable after a COVID-19 case peak, but had increases in visits for depressive, bipolar, and trauma and stress-related disorders of 9.9%. 40% and 42.4%, respectively.
These numbers are likely due to stress and increased mental problems coming from witnessing a public health crisis, the study said. Existing socio-economic conditions, high COVID-19 mortality and racially motivated violence have exacerbated the effects of the pandemic on mental health in marginalized societies.
To address health inequalities, providers need to raise awareness of and increase access to meaningful and culturally competent mental health services, such as telemedicine, primary care and other resources, said Caitlin Gillooly, senior associate director of policy at the American Hospital Association.
Social issues such as food insecurity, transportation and childcare should also be key focus on improving the mental health of historically marginalized groups during the pandemic, she said.
Of the approximately 2.5 million ED visits included in the report’s race and ethnicity analysis, approximately 1% were Native American or Alaska natives and a further 1% of Asian populations. One-fifth of the visits were by black people, 16% were by Latinos, and 0.2% were by Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander groups. White people accounted for 47% of the visits analyzed.
Young adults aged 18 to 24 experienced moderate to high increases in behavioral and impulse disorders, eating disorders, and tic disorders, ranging from 11.8% to 25.8%, after a peak in the case of COVID-19.
For the most part, the number of mental health-related ED visits of all people between the pre-Delta and Delta periods in 2021 remained relatively stable, declining by an average of 1.4% to 7.5%. However, visits related to eating disorders and tic disorders decreased by 11.9% and 19.8%, respectively, during the increase in the Delta variant.
When comparing the Delta period with its corresponding pre-pandemic months in 2019, there was an average decrease of 17.2% in all mental health-related ED visits, with visits for disorders falling between 6.4% and 30.7 % pr. 100,000 visits.