The COVID-19 pandemic may have affected mental health in the general population. We examined if a higher proportion of people screened positive for depression and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) during the first week of nationwide quarantine than in February 2019; if each disorder increased over six weeks of quarantine; and what predicted screening positive for depression or GAD across this period. Two nationally representative samples of Irish adults were collected using identical methods in February 2019 (N = 1020) and April 2020 (N = 1041). The latter were followed for six weeks during nationwide quarantine. Respondents completed the same measures of depression and GAD. A significantly greater proportion of people screened positive for depression in 2019 (29.8% 95% CI = 27.0, 32.6) than 2020 (22.8% 95% CI = 20.2, 25.3). There were no significant changes in the proportion of people who screened positive for depression or GAD across six weeks of quarantine. Screening positive for depression or GAD during the pandemic was predicted by female sex, younger age, and multiple psychological variables. We discuss the need to consider contextual factors to understand the mental health effects of COVID-19 and how these findings can inform responses to the pandemic.
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