1. Internet searches related to acute anxiety rose significantly following the declaration of COVID-19 as a national emergency in the U.S., and returned to expected rates by April 15, 2020.
Evidence Rating Level: 3 (Average)
Mental health is a significant concern in the context of COVID-19 safety precautions. This retrospective study evaluated the association between COVID-19 and anxiety by examining internet searches indicative of concerns related to acute anxiety during the early months of the pandemic. Google Trends was utilized to monitor daily searches originating from the US between January 1, 2004 and May 4, 2020, focusing specifically on the percentage of all searches that included ‘anxiety’ or ‘panic’ in combination with ‘attack’. The key reference date was set to March 13, 2020, which was when the US declared COVID-19 as a national emergency. Following this date, acute anxiety searches were cumulatively 11% higher than anticipated (375,000 more searches) based on historical trends (95% CI 7 to 14), becoming the all-time high for the search time frame. The greatest spike in anxiety searches occurred 15 days after the declaration of the national emergency (52% increase, 95% CI 27-81). A 17% (95% CI 13 to 22) cumulative increase was noted when social-distancing guidelines were imposed, along with restrictions related to masks and the US passing Italy for the most COVID-19-related deaths. By April 15, 2020, acute anxiety queries appeared to return to the expected range. In sum, anxiety appeared to be a concern for many individuals since COVID-19 restrictions. Over time, and potentially due to people achieving what they were seeking or obtaining medical care for anxiety, these concerns have returned to normal as measured by internet searches.
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