Man sitting in mask upset

Mental health concerns among Virginia residents have soared during the pandemic, according to interim results from the digital health study known as COVIDsmart. Through a series of local interviews this spring, one EVMS researcher has been sharing these findings and encouraging more participation in the statewide study.

Among the more than 450 people from across the state who participated in the COVIDsmart study in March, nearly one quarter reported experiencing signs and symptoms of moderate to severe anxiety (22.38%) or moderate to severe depression (24%).

Those rates are three times greater than in 2019, prior to the pandemic, when just 6.1% of adults in the U.S. reported moderate to severe anxiety and 7% reported moderate to severe depression, according to Sunita Dodani, MD, PhD, Director of the EVMS-Sentara Healthcare Analytics and Delivery Science Institute (HADSI) at EVMS and Principal Investigator on the COVIDsmart study.

“We were expecting there would be an increase with mental health issues, but to this extent? It was shocking,” Dr. Dodani explained to The Virginian-Pilot in a story published on Wednesday, April 27. Dr. Dodani also discussed the findings a day earlier on “HearSay with Cathy Lewis” and as part of the “Coronavirus Digital Discussion” series, featured on WAVY-10’s Facebook page and nightly news broadcast.

COVIDsmart is sponsored by HADSI, George Mason University (Mason), and health technology company Vibrent Health who are leading the initiative to gather information to help participants, researchers and public health entities better understand and address the impacts of the pandemic and future health crises. The majority of study participants thus far have been females, between the ages of 35 and 60.

The COVIDsmart health study is designed to examine the many impacts of COVID-19 on individuals and their communities, so that individually- tailored health improvements programs can be offered to them, says Dr. Dodani. The study is open to participants from all walks of life across Virginia to share information on how the pandemic has affected their lives, even if they have not had COVID-19.

The study is open to anyone at least 18 years old living in Virginia. It is gathering information about participants’ experiences through the course of the pandemic. The study consists of easy-to-understand online surveys.  As an incentive to participants, COVIDsmart offers gift card drawings for those who stay active in the study.

Learn more about COVIDsmart.