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Study finds ‘very concerning’ rates of depression in Utah as COVID-19 rages on

A COVID-19 vaccine at a Utah County Health clinic.
Mary Starke prepares a COVID-19 vaccine during a Utah County Health clinic at Equestrian Park in Highland on Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Even as COVID-19 continues to show no signs of slowing in Utah, a new Intermountain Healthcare study finds a "very concerning" increase in depression among Utahns in the wake of the pandemic.

Of 4,633 patients who completed screenings, nearly 40% reported new or ongoing symptoms of depression during the first year of the pandemic, officials with Intermountain Healthcare said.

"These findings are significant. In looking at the first year of the pandemic, we are already seeing the mental health effects on our patients," Heidi T. May, cardiovascular epidemiologist at the Intermountain Healthcare Heart Institute and principal investigator of the study, said in a statement.

"We already know that depression raises a person's risk for developing cardiovascular disease and other chronic health problems," May said, adding that the study highlights the need for health care providers to screen patients and give mental health resources.

The findings of the study were presented over the weekend at the American Heart Association's virtual 2021 Scientific Session.

Participating patients completed the screenings before the pandemic, between March 1, 2019 and Feb. 29, 2020; and then again, during the pandemic, between March 1, 2020 and April 20, 2021, officials said.

Patients who were identified as "depressed" during the screening had higher levels of depression during the pandemic than before it, according to the study, and hospitals in Utah have also seen increased emergency department visits for anxiety.

The study finds that patients with depression had 2.8 greater odds of visiting an emergency room for anxiety, compared with people who were not depressed; and 1.8 greater chance of visiting the emergency room for chest pains, compared to those without depression.

May expressed concern about potential higher rates of cardiovascular disease occurring within a few years due to people becoming more depressed during the pandemic.

Researchers emphasized the need for follow-up research to gauge mental health impacts as the pandemic continues.

Latest Utah data

Utah health officials reported another 4,502 new COVID-19 cases and 26 deaths since Friday.

A breakdown of cases by day:

  • Friday: 2,044.
  • Saturday: 1,310.
  • Sunday: 1,162.

The Utah Department of Health removed 14 previously-reported cases from the total.

The rolling, seven-day average for new cases is 1,634 per day, and the average positive rate of people being tested is 16.7%.

School-age children accounted for 1,080 of the latest confirmed cases, including 590 kids ages 5-10; 245 ages 11-13; and, 245 between 14-17.

Health care workers administered 41,783 additional vaccine doses since Friday, bringing total doses given in the state to 3,945,813.

In the last 28 days, people who are unvaccinated are at 19 times greater risk of dying from COVID-19, 11.7 times greater risk of being hospitalized due to COVID-19, and 4.8 times greater risk of testing positive for COVID-19 than vaccinated people, the state health department said in a daily update.

Since Feb. 1, unvaccinated residents have faced 8.8 times greater risk of dying from COVID-19, 7.2 times greater risk of hospitalization, and 3.4 times greater risk of testing positive for than vaccinated people, according to the data.

Since COVID-19 first arrived in Utah in March 2020, 3,373 people have died with the disease.

New deaths reported Monday include:

  • Two Weber County women, both between the ages of 45 and 64, one of whom was hospitalized when she died and one who was not.
  • A Weber County man, 65-84, hospitalized.
  • A Carbon County man, 45-64, hospitalized.
  • Two Salt Lake County men, 25-44, one of whom was hospitalized and one who was not.
  • A Salt Lake County man, older than 85, hospitalized.
  • A Salt Lake County man, 45-64, hospitalized.
  • A Salt Lake County man, 65-84, hospitalized.
  • A Box Elder County man, 45-64, hospitalized.
  • Two Washington County men, 45-64, hospitalized.
  • A Washington County man, 25-44, hospitalized.
  • Two Washington County men, 65-84, one of whom was hospitalized and one who was not.
  • A Wasatch County man, 65-84, hospitalized.
  • A Utah County woman, 65-84, hospitalized.
  • A Utah County man, 25-44, hospitalized.
  • A Millard County man, 65-84, hospitalized.
  • A Millard County man, 65-84, hospitalized
  • A Davis County man, 65-84, hospitalized.
  • A Kane County man, 65-84, hospitalized.
  • A Kane County man, 65-84, hospitalized
  • A Tooele County man, older than 85, hospitalized.
  • A Tooele County woman, 65-84, hospitalized.
  • A Sanpete County woman, 25-44, hospitalized.