News reports chronicling coronavirus in the U.S. deliver a gut punch every day. But as alarming and tragic as the statistics are (15.4 million confirmed cases and more than 291,000 deaths as of early December 2020)1, they tell only part of the COVID-19 story.
Specifically, health care professionals and researchers are just beginning to understand the mental health impacts, including depression, loneliness and social isolation — and not just as consequences of the disease itself, but also stemming from physical distancing, self-quarantining and stay-at-home orders. Individuals with hearing loss may be especially at risk.
Of course, mental health issues are not a recent phenomenon. Clinical depression, one of America’s most common mental health conditions, affected more than 17 million adults before the pandemic, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Loneliness and social isolation may be more difficult to quantify, but their prevalence in U.S. society is undeniable.
The consequences of mental health conditions are significant and alarming. For example, the total economic burden of depression was estimated to be at least $210 billion annually prior to the pandemic, and loneliness was associated with a reduction in lifespan similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes daily.