Background: Population-based surveys indicate that many people experienced increased psychological distress during the COVID-19 pandemic. We aimed to determine if there was a corresponding increase in patients receiving services for anxiety and depression from their family physicians. Methods: : Electronic medical records from the University of Toronto Practice Based-Research Network (UTOPIAN; N = 322,920 patients) were used to calculate incidence rates for anxiety/depression related visits and antidepressant prescriptions before the COVID-19 pandemic (January 2018-February 2020) and during the COVID-19 pandemic (March-December 2020). Data from the pre-pandemic period were used to predict expected rates during the pandemic period which was compared to the observed rate. Results: : The number of patients presenting with anxiety/depression symptoms in primary care varied across age groups, sex, and time since pandemic onset. Among the youngest patients (ages 10-18 years), there were fewer patients than pre-pandemic visiting for new episodes of anxiety/depression and being prescribed antidepressants in April 2020, but by the end of 2020 this trend had reversed such that incidence rates for anxiety/depression related visits were higher than pre-pandemic levels. Among older adults, incidence rates of anxiety/depression related visits increased in April 2020 with the onset of the pandemic, and remained higher than expected throughout 2020. Limitations: : A convenience sample of 362 family physicians in Ontario was used. Conclusion: : Demand for mental health services from family physicians varied by patient age and sex and changed with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. By the end of 2020, more patients were seeking treatment for anxiety/depression related concerns.

Fuente: Journal of Affective Disorders
Available online 6 February 2022