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Survey Tracking Covid-19 Mental Health Impact

Mental health scrabble

(Wokandapix, Pixabay)

7 May 2020. A survey is underway in the U.S. to gauge the mental health impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, with data also collected with personal activity trackers. The study is a joint project of digital health and measurement company Evidation Health Inc. in San Mateo, California and the New York City health department.

The Covid-19 Experience Study aims to enroll 300,000 participants throughout the U.S., age 18 and older, who report on physical and mental health symptoms. Participants are asked to complete a daily online questionnaire for five months, although responding every day is not required. Data will be provided through Evidation’s Achievement platform, designed for online capture of personal health data for research. Achievement’s 3.7 million members, which the company says reside in 32,000 U.S. zip codes, earn points redeemable for cash or charitable contributions for taking part.

In addition, participants can connect their activity trackers to provide data on movement, sleep, and heart rate. The company says data provided in the study are de-identified and shared with participants’ consent over the Synapse collaboration network operated by Sage Bionetworks. Among the data recipients is the Covid Near You symptom tracker program developed by Boston Children’s Hospital. Other public health officials and researchers can request access to the data.

“There is a silent pandemic of anxiety, stress, and depression that is running alongside the Covid-19 pandemic,” says Evidation chief data scientist and co-founder Luca Foschini in a company statement. “With this study, we hope to understand the contours of the mental health impact of this extraordinary situation and how it interacts with people’s physical health.”

Evidation has an ongoing study of Covid-19 experiences, enrolling some 185,000 participants as of mid-April. The company says half of the respondents (50%) report increased anxiety compared to the previous week, up from 29 percent in mid-March. And nearly half (45%) of participants with anxiety and depression express worry about seeking the care they need, separate from Covid-19.

New York City’s health commissioner Oxiris Barbot notes, “The anxiety, grief and strain that COVID-19 is putting on New Yorkers must be better understood so that we can provide the right support for people throughout the five boroughs. This study will help us gain a deeper understanding of behavioral health needs that can be translated into stronger mental health support for our city.”

Evidation designed the study with the help of Laura Huckins, professor of genetics and psychiatry at Mount Sinai medical school in New York. Huckins employs statistical algorithms to better understand the genetics of psychiatric disorders, particularly in vulnerable populations. She also leads the project Stop Covid NYC that asks city residents to complete similar surveys about Covid-19 symptoms.

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