Lower depression levels during COVID

Published: October 21 2021
Last updated: September 28 2022

Depression levels have reduced during the COVID-19 pandemic in a group of 449 people with epilepsy, a new study from India has found.

The research, published in Epilepsy & Behavior journal, aimed to assess the impact of the pandemic on seizure control, depression status and medicine adherence, given that healthcare services have been disrupted.

The study evaluated 449 people with epilepsy, who had previously been assessed for depression in New Delhi, India, over the phone. They were asked about their epilepsy medicines, seizures, depression and suicidal thoughts in the last six months.

The results showed that around one in five (19.9%) had symptoms of depression, compared to around two in five (40.1%) before the pandemic. Around one in 20 had had suicidal thoughts. Just over one in five (23.9%) reported seizures during the pandemic.

The study authors, Prof Jatinder Katyal and colleagues, found that seizures during the pandemic, increased seizure frequency, previous history of depression and changes to medicine regime were significantly linked with depression during the pandemic. Needing more than one epilepsy medicine, having seizures during the pandemic and a previous history of depression and suicidal thoughts were linked with people experiencing suicidal thoughts during the pandemic.

The researchers concluded that depression levels dropped significantly during the pandemic in their study group, despite other reports mostly finding an increase in anxiety and depression during this time. The reason for this isn’t clear, but the study authors suggested that lockdown may have provided a better support structure with things like taking medicines regularly, which may have contributed to lower depression levels. However, the researchers warned that conducting the follow-up interviews over the phone may have resulted in missed cases of depression.

The study authors called for restoring epilepsy services to pre-COVID levels, as well as putting in place continuity plans to help make this kind of care for people with epilepsy a priority.

There is more information about epilepsy and depression, including sources of support on the Epilepsy Action website.

Read the full story on the Epilepsy and Behavior website.