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Depression grows 40% in Brazil during COVID-19 pandemic

Thursday, April 28th 2022 - 10:15 UTC
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Vulnerable sectors were affected the most by the sanitary restrictions Vulnerable sectors were affected the most by the sanitary restrictions

A recent study has shown a 40% increase in cases of depression among Brazilians amid restrictions stemming from sanitary measures adopted to fight the spread of COVID-19, it was reported Wednesday.

The percentage of people diagnosed with depression also was said to have grown from 9.6% before the health crisis, to 13.5% in the first quarter of 2022, according to the Telephone Survey of Risk Factors for Non-Transmissible Chronic Diseases in Times of Pandemic (Covitel) research undertaken by the Federal University of Pelotas (UFPel) with help from NGOs.

For the study, some 9,000 interviews were conducted by telephone, half by landline and half by cell phone, from January to March. The sample covers the five regions of the country, including urban and countryside populations.

The prevalence of depression is higher among women; 18.8% this year against 13.5% before the pandemic. Among white people, 16.5% were diagnosed with the disorder, a number that was 11% before the health crisis. Among the black population, the percentage of people diagnosed with depression rose from 8.8% to 11.8%.

Luciana Sardinha, a technical advisor to Vital Strategies, the NGO participating in the study, explained the data dealt only with people who got a diagnosis for the problem, not necessarily all affected by depression. The cases counted as positive were “those who were able to have access to a doctor,” she stressed.

“As much as we have a family health strategy, of basic care, consolidated in the country, more vulnerable or less educated groups still have some barriers, and this reflects in the data,” added Fernando Wehrmeister, professor at UFPel's School of Medicine.

The most vulnerable populations face difficulties in accessing health systems, ranging from mobility problems to issues such as discrimination. These groups also tend to have “worse health indicators,” Wehrmeister added.

Pedro Hallal, a professor at the UFPel's School of Physical Education, pointed out that the lack of physical activity and a nutrient-poor diet were both risk factors for people with chronic diseases. He then called for proactive prevention policies with a focus on vulnerable groups “who need it most.”

The study also showed a 40% increase in people who do not practice any physical activities. Before the pandemic, 38.6% of people practiced physical activity regularly, which dropped to 30.3% this year, while those inactive rose from 13.1% to 18.4%.

Among the population with up to 8 years of schooling, the percentage of physically active people fell from 31.8% to 22.3%. For people with 12 or more years of formal education, 51% were active before the pandemic, a percentage that was 43.6% after the crisis.

Regular consumption of vegetables fell by 12.5% among the total population during the pandemic. Before the health crisis, vegetables were part of the meals of 45.1% of the population, a percentage that was 39.5% this year. The number did not vary, however, among people with 12 or more years of schooling, staying at just over 53% in both scenarios.

In the population with up to 8 years of schooling, there was a drop from 43.9% to 34.9%. Among white people, the percentage went from 49.6% before the pandemic to 46.2% in the first quarter of this year. For black people, the rate of people who regularly consume vegetables went from 42.5% to 35.6%.

(Source: Agencia Brasil)

Categories: Health & Science, Brazil.

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