The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on the mental health of the nation, according to a new study published in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's weekly journal, MMWR.
The CDC said that social isolation, coronavirus-related deaths and stress weighed heavy on Americans, forcing many to confront new mental health challenges.
Researchers noted that anxiety and depression scores fluctuated throughout the pandemic and reflected changes in COVID-19 cases. Throughout the study, they found that the more average daily COVID-19 cases there were, the more people experienced anxiety and depression symptoms.
From August 2020 to December 2020, there was a 13% increase nationwide in anxiety-related symptoms and a 14.8% increase in depression-related symptoms.
"We were really thinking about life or death," said Dr. Panagiota Korenis, associate professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. "The pandemic has certainly identified the need to not just take physical health in isolation and really needing to emphasize also people's mental well-being."
As the COVID vaccine has rolled out, from December 2020 to June 2021, anxiety-related symptoms decreased by 26.8% and depression-related symptoms fell by 24.8%.
However, the severity scores for both illnesses remain higher than pre-pandemic levels.
"As this is drawing out, we're seeing the aftermath of a lot of burnout. ... I do very much believe that we are in it for the long haul," Korenis said. "If people take the time to self-reflect, and they're open to getting help, getting treatment, and taking time to do things that bring them joy, I think that's really critical."
Researchers said this study emphasized the need to make mental health resources readily and easily accessible during the pandemic.
The study included more than 1.5 million adults, and took into account 19 different waves of COVID-19 to assess anxiety and depression symptoms with questionnaires and surveys.
Dr. Adela Wu, a contributor to the ABC News Medical Unit, contributed to this report.