The unfolding #COVID-19 pandemic: A probability-based, nationally representative study of #mental health in the U.S.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a collective stressor unfolding over time, yet rigorous published empirical studies addressing mental health consequences of COVID-19 among large probability-based national samples are rare. Between 3/18-4/18/20, during an escalating period of illness and death in the United States, we assessed acute stress, depressive symptoms and direct, community, and media-based exposures to COVID-19 in three consecutive representative samples across three 10-day periods (total N=6,514) from the U.S. probability-based nationally representative NORC AmeriSpeak panel.

Acute stress and depressive symptoms increased significantly over time as COVID-19 deaths increased across the U.S. Pre-existing mental and physical health diagnoses, daily hours of COVID-19-related media exposure, exposure to conflicting COVID-19 information in media, and secondary stressors were all associated with acute stress and depressive symptoms. Results have implications for targeting of public health interventions and risk communication efforts to promote community resilience as the pandemic waxes and wanes over time.