Staying Strong, But for How Long? Mental Health During COVID-19 in Italy
18 Pages Posted: 13 May 2022
Date Written: April 26, 2022
A recent literature investigating mental health consequences of social distancing measures, has found a substantial increase in self-reported sleep and anxiety disorders and depressive symptoms during lockdown periods. These evidence are in contrast with the results we obtain using data on monthly purchases of psychiatric drugs by the universe of Italian pharmacies over the period of interest. We argue that this discrepancy has three potential causes: i) use of non-pharmaceutical therapies and non-medical solutions during lockdown periods; ii) unmet needs due to both demand- and supply-side shortages in healthcare services and iii) the subjectivity of self-assessed psychological health in survey studies, capturing also mild mental distress which might not evolve into mental disorder needing pharmacological treatment. This last point seems to be confirmed by lack of statistical significance of any measure of mobility change and reason of mobility (which we proxy with mobile phone data) on antidepressants and anxiolytics purchases during the entire 2020 period.
Funding Information: The authors acknowledge the financial support received from the One Health Center (One Health Fellowship). DP and CC acknowledge support from the Lagrange Project of the Institute for Scientific Interchange Foundation (ISI Foundation) funded by Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Torino (Fondazione CRT).
Conflict of Interests: None to declare.
Keywords: Mental health, lockdown, anxiety, depression, drugs
JEL Classification: I18, R40, D91
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation