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New Yorkers Suffering from Depression and Anxiety as COVID-19 Surges in Other States

By CHAR ADAMS

New York residents are experiencing high rates of depression and anxiety, and are hesitant to resume normal activities — even though the virus is showing improvement in the city.

In a recent tracking survey of 1,000 New Yorkers from the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy, 33% said they would feel comfortable going to see their doctor for a routine visit, down from 65% in May.

“People follow the news,” said CUNY SPH Dean Ayman El-Mohandes. “COVID-19 is under better control in New York now, but people see that it is devastating other cities, states and countries, and they do not want to let their guard down. People here also seem to have become resigned to COVID-19. They don’t see the pandemic ending within a finite period of time, instead they link its resolution to the availability of a safe and effective vaccine.” 

Nearly 3 million people in the United States have tested positive for coronavirus and the number has only skyrocketed as states reopened prematurely. There are more than 397,000 confirmed cases in New York and more than 32,000 people have died in the state, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center. However, the infection rate and hospitalizations have steadily declined in the state in recent weeks. 

“New York continues to make progress combatting the scourge of COVID-19, even as we see heavily increasing infections in other states,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a recent update. 

Despite New York’s overall progress, residents are still facing serious economic challenges. Twenty percent of respondents who rent their homes said they would not be able to pay their rent in July, while 10% of homeowners said they wouldn’t be able to pay their mortgage. Twenty-six percent reported losing their jobs as a result of the pandemic. 

Meanwhile, food insecurity is still a struggle for many of the surveyed New Yorkers. 

“Despite the determined efforts of public programs to improve access to food assistance, it is disturbing that, four months into the epidemic, less than a third of New Yorkers report receiving such help,” said Professor Nicholas Freudenberg,  director of the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute. 

“This suggests an ongoing gap, as our survey in late May found that 44% of households were experiencing food insecurity. To reduce the high levels of food insecurity that threaten present and future physical and mental health in New York City, public food programs will need to do more to reach those in need.”

The recent survey is part of CUNY SPH’s efforts to determine attitudes and outcomes among New Yorkers about everything from job loss and mental health to housing and testing amid the COVID-19 health crisis. It was also published by JHC Impact, a blog of the Journal of Health Communication.

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