COVID-19-Related Stressors and the Role of Cognitive Assessment

Fred Ma,

Published on: 2021-02-15


Objectives: Determine the prevalence of various stress-related factors among a sample of the US adult population in order to ascertain the potential impact upon cognitive functioning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods: A US census, age-balanced sample of adults was recruited through an online survey platform in June 2020. Participants, blinded to the survey sponsor, completed a 20-question survey regarding activity participation as well as experiences and perceptions prior to and since the onset of the pandemic.

Results: A total of 693 respondents were included, of which 23% (n=159/693) were ≥60 years of age. Most (93.2%; n=646/693) reported experiencing one or more stressors. The prevalence of lifestyle-related stressors was high, with 47.2% and 63.1% reporting poor diet and poor sleep, respectively; and a substantially greater proportion indicated a worsening of diet, sleep, and financial stress since the pandemic began. The overall prevalence of health-related stressors was also high, with 63.5% reporting anxious symptoms—of which 26.6% were new onset, and 51.7% reporting depressive symptoms—of which 21.1% were new onset. Overall, 20.8% (n=144/693) described a worsening of their cognitive health since the pandemic began, with a greater likelihood of such among those who also experienced worsening of a health-related issue.

Conclusions: The prevalence of stressors known to affect cognitive functioning has increased during the pandemic, underscoring the necessity of proactively establishing routine neurocognitive assessment in clinical practice in order to better mitigate the impending mental health crisis.

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