Given the unprecedented level and duration of mitigation policies during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, it is not surprising that the public and the media have raised important questions about the potential for negative mental health consequences of the measures. To answer them, natural variability in policy implementation across US states and over time was analyzed to determine if mitigation policies correlated with Google searches for terms associated with symptoms of depression and anxiety. Findings indicated that restaurant/bar limits and stay-at-home orders correlated with immediate increases in searches for isolation and worry but the effects tapered off two to four weeks after their respective peaks. Moreover, the policies correlated with a reduction in searches for antidepressants and suicide, thus revealing no evidence of increases in severe symptomatology. The policy implications of these findings are discussed.
- Mental health
- Social distancing
- COVID-19 policies
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)