Risk for depression tripled during the COVID-19 pandemic in emerging adults followed for the last 8 years

Elisabet Alzueta, Simon Podhajsky, Qingyu Zhao, Susan F. Tapert, Wesley K. Thompson, Massimiliano De Zambotti, Dilara Yuksel, Orsolya Kiss, Rena Wang, Laila Volpe, Devin Prouty, Ian M. Colrain, Duncan B. Clark, David B. Goldston, Kate B. Nooner, Michael D. De Bellis, Sandra A. Brown, Bonnie J. Nagel, Adolf Pfefferbaum, Edith V. SullivanFiona C. Baker, Kilian M. Pohl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has significantly increased depression rates, particularly in emerging adults. The aim of this study was to examine longitudinal changes in depression risk before and during COVID-19 in a cohort of emerging adults in the U.S. and to determine whether prior drinking or sleep habits could predict the severity of depressive symptoms during the pandemic. Methods Participants were 525 emerging adults from the National Consortium on Alcohol and NeuroDevelopment in Adolescence (NCANDA), a five-site community sample including moderate-to-heavy drinkers. Poisson mixed-effect models evaluated changes in the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D-10) from before to during COVID-19, also testing for sex and age interactions. Additional analyses examined whether alcohol use frequency or sleep duration measured in the last pre-COVID assessment predicted pandemic-related increase in depressive symptoms. Results The prevalence of risk for clinical depression tripled due to a substantial and sustained increase in depressive symptoms during COVID-19 relative to pre-COVID years. Effects were strongest for younger women. Frequent alcohol use and short sleep duration during the closest pre-COVID visit predicted a greater increase in COVID-19 depressive symptoms. Conclusions The sharp increase in depression risk among emerging adults heralds a public health crisis with alarming implications for their social and emotional functioning as this generation matures. In addition to the heightened risk for younger women, the role of alcohol use and sleep behavior should be tracked through preventive care aiming to mitigate this looming mental health crisis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2156-2163
Number of pages8
JournalPsychological Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 2 2023


  • Alcohol
  • COVID-19 pandemic
  • depression
  • emerging adults
  • longitudinal
  • sleep

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Risk for depression tripled during the COVID-19 pandemic in emerging adults followed for the last 8 years'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this