The pandemic is causing a massive spike in depressive disorders including anxiety but underlying health conditions also seem to be getting worse too.
Data from Infermedica, the artificial intelligence (AI) AI-based platform focusing on primary care, has published insights gleaned from the 1.4 million check-ups conducted by its AI-driven Symptomate symptom- checking platform throughout 2020.
Researchers there looked at two conditions – deteriorating mental welling and heart attacks – with numbers showing their frequency increasing.
Key findings include:
- The number of times Symptomate recommended ‘major depressive disorder’ as a probable issue rose by 9.5%
- ‘Anxiety disorder with panic attacks’ was also a growing trend – it was provided as a probable condition 148% more times
- The number of interviews where ‘heart attack’ appeared as a probable condition increased by 17%
Infermedica carried out 1.8m interviews and check-ups globally between June 2019 and November 2020, across both its desktop and mobile applications. It also found that:
- Across all user groups, ‘common cold’, ‘migraine’ and ‘IBS’ are the top three most commonly first ranked medical conditions by Symptomate (which provides a list of up to eight possible conditions ranked by probability). They rank top in 5%, 4.7% and 4.5% of all interviews respectively
- Heart attack’ is ranked 7th (1.7%)
- ‘Major depressive disorder’ ranks 13th; ‘anxiety disorder’ 16th; ‘general anxiety disorder’ 19th
According to Infermedica data, the most common initial symptoms and risk factors are:
- Across all user groups, ‘headache’ is the most common initial symptom declared appearing in nearly one fifth (19.7%) of interviews; ‘feeling sick’ (15.3%) and ‘fatigue’ (13.8%) are second and third
- The most common risk factor impacting health is possessing a ‘BMI of more than 30’ with one third (33%) of users experiencing it; followed by ‘smoking cigarettes’ (23.3%), ‘hypertension’ (9.7%) and ‘high cholesterol’ (7.8%)
Magdalena Wadas, a psychiatrist at Infermedica,said that the figures tally with other research that show an increase in new cases of certain psychiatric disorders, such as depressive and anxiety conditions, as well as exacerbation and intensification of symptoms in people with already diagnosed mental disorders.
But she added: “The situation is creating uncertainty and everything from safety to pressures of lockdown, social isolation, loneliness and loss of income might contribute to depressive symptoms, anxiety, and poor sleep.
“We also can’t forget about the links between mental and physical health. Reduced access to face-to-face healthcare may result in worsening physical conditions. Exacerbating symptoms, particularly the intensification of pain complaints, has an impact mentally, and depressive symptoms are found to be more common in patients with general medical disorders. Also, poor diet and lack of exercise can have a negative effect on our mental well-being and vice versa – the two work hand-in-hand.”
Wadas said that technology can now play a vital role in the diagnosis of mental diseases.