Understanding the Mental Health Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic Among Individuals With Chronic Illness

Psychol Rep. 2023 Mar 18;332941231164338. doi: 10.1177/00332941231164338. Online ahead of print.


People with chronic illnesses are vulnerable to stress and psychopathology during population-level disasters, as a subset of individuals with disabilities. We aimed to examine the relationships between chronic illness, cumulative and specific stressors, and probable depression, probable anxiety, and post-traumatic stress in an under-resourced urban population in New York City during the COVID-19 pandemic. Using cross-sectional survey data collected in April 2020, we utilized bivariate chi-square analyses and multivariable logistic regression models to estimate differences in and adjusted odds of stressor endorsement and diagnostic prevalence between people with and without chronic illness. We also assessed effect modification of the relationship between stressor exposure and psychopathology by chronic illness status. Compared to people without chronic illness, those who reported having a chronic illness experienced increased odds of probable depression, probable anxiety, and post-traumatic stress. They were also more likely to report high cumulative COVID-19-related stress exposure, death of someone close to them due to coronavirus or COVID-19, family problems, feeling alone, supply shortages, and financial problems. Chronic illness was found to be an effect modifier in the relationship between the death of someone close due to coronavirus or COVID-19 and probable depression and between household job loss and probable anxiety.

Keywords: COVID-19; Chronic illness; PTSD; anxiety; depression; stress.