Persistence of anxiety among Asian Americans: racial and ethnic heterogeneity in the longitudinal trends in mental well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic

Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2023 Aug 25. doi: 10.1007/s00127-023-02553-6. Online ahead of print.


Purpose: To examine within-individual time trends in mental well-being and factors influencing heterogeneity of these trends.

Methods: Longitudinal telephone survey of adults over 3 waves from the New York City (NYC) Metropolitan area during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Participants reported depression using the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ)-8, anxiety using the Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)-7, and past 30-day increases in tobacco or alcohol use at each wave. Adjusted mixed effects logistic regression models assessed time trends in mental well-being.

Results: There were 1227 respondents. Over 3 study waves, there were statistically significant decreasing time trends in the odds of each outcome (adjusted OR (95% CI) 0.47 (0.37, 0.60); p < 0.001 for depression; aOR (95% CI) 0.55 (0.45, 0.66); p < 0.001 for anxiety; aOR (95% CI) 0.50 (0.35, 0.71); p < 0.001 for past 30-day increased tobacco use; aOR (95% CI) 0.31 (0.24, 0.40); p < 0.001 for past 30-day increased alcohol use). Time trends for anxiety varied by race and ethnicity (p value for interaction = 0.05, 4 df); anxiety declined over time among white, Black, Hispanic, and Other race and ethnicity but not among Asian participants.

Conclusions: In a demographically varied population from the NYC Metropolitan area, depression, anxiety and increased substance use were common during the first months of the pandemic, but decreased over the following year. While this was consistently the case across most demographic groups, the odds of anxiety among Asian participants did not decrease over time.

Keywords: Anxiety; COVID-19; Depression; Racial disparities; Time trends.