Connecting the Dots: COVID, Mental Illness and Violence

A survey by Johns Hopkins researchers identifies a massive increase in “mental distress” among American consumers during the Covid-19 epidemic, as compared with two years before. The percent of adults reporting symptoms of mental distress rose of 3.7% in March of 2018 to 24% in March 2020.

Peace be wit you!

The researchers report that loneliness from the quarantine is not a factor in this rise in mental issues. That measure rose only slightly, from 11% in 2018 to 13.8% in 2020. Statistically, that cannot be a major factor in the much larger increase in mental issues.

The highest increase in distress was among the most vulnerable groups: low income households and Hispanics. However, when you add the virus element to people who are already at some level of distress (e.g., militant white supremacists) the combination could become explosive.

We already have research studies linking mental distress with violence, including the Sandy Hook school shootings.(3, 4)

While there are legitimate concerns with the behavior of some in law enforcement, to what extent has the current level of violence on both sides been aggravated by the virus? How much of this is this the virus talking both through the rioters (not the protesters, just the looters) and through some government officials and online trolls?


  1. Emma E. McGinty, Rachel Presskreischer, Hahrie Han, Colleen L. Barry. Psychological Distress and Loneliness Reported by US Adults in 2018 and April 2020. JAMA, 2020; DOI: 10.1001/jama.2020.9740
  2. Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Survey finds large increase in psychological distress reported among US adults during the COVID-19 pandemic.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 June 2020.
  4. V. H. Dam et. al., “P.2.022 – Five-factor personality is associated with aggression and mental distress in violent offenders”, European Neuropsychopharmacology, Volume 28, Supplement 1, March 2018, Pages S35-S36

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