TUESDAY, Nov. 17, 2020 (HealthDay News) — From 2009 to 2018, there were increases in diseases-of-despair diagnoses, according to a study published online Nov. 9 in BMJ Open.

Emily Brignone, Ph.D., from Highmark Health in Pittsburgh, and colleagues characterized rates of clinically documented diseases of despair in a retrospective study using a health care claims database with 10 years of follow-up. Data were included for a cohort of 12,144,252 participants. Diagnoses related to alcohol misuse, substance misuse, and suicide ideation/behaviors were defined as diseases of despair.

The researchers found that 515,830 participants received a diagnosis of disease of despair. The prevalence of alcohol-related, substance-related, and suicide-related diagnoses increased by 37, 94, and 170 percent, respectively, from 2009 to 2018. The largest increases in alcohol-related and substance-related diagnoses were seen for ages 55 to 74 years (59 and 172 percent, respectively). The largest increase in suicide-related diagnoses was seen for those younger than 18 years (287 percent). Higher odds for current-year diagnosis were seen among men (adjusted odds ratio, 1.49) and among those with Affordable Care Act or Medicare coverage versus commercial coverage (adjusted odds ratios, 1.30 and 1.51, respectively).

“As the COVID-19 pandemic contracts domestic and global economies and requires the implementation of social/physical distancing regimes, it will be important for researchers to examine how and in what ways diseases of despair are affected by prolonged isolation, loss of jobs/benefits, diminution of social protections, lack of mental health care, drug abuse, increased domestic abuse and other societal consequences of the virus,” the authors write.

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