Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios Pro Rata

Dive into the world of dealmakers across VC, PE and M&A with Axios Pro Rata. Delivered daily to your inbox by Dan Primack and Kia Kokalitcheva.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Austin news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Austin newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Atlanta news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Atlanta newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Philadelphia news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Philadelphia newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Chicago news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Chicago newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top DC news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios DC newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!
Expand chart
Source: Brülhart, M., Klotzbücher, V., Lalive, R. et al. in Nature; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

Fear and loneliness replaced relationship and livelihood concerns during the pandemic, a team of scientists said after looking at millions of helpline calls in multiple countries before and after the COVID-19 pandemic started.

The big picture: Doctors and policymakers are trying to assess the impact of quarantines, school closures and other public health measures on our emotional and mental well-being. Using helpline data could become an important assessment tool, the researchers said.

  • "When it comes to tracking mental health, we are so far behind," says Cindy Liu, director of the Developmental Risk and Cultural Resilience Laboratory at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who published a perspective piece in Nature.
  • Liu says she's "impressed" by the potential usage of helpline data.

The impact of pandemic measures on mental health was unclear because "we have no historical data to compare these situations to," says Marius Brülhart, professor of economics at the University of Lausanne and co-author of the study, published Wednesday in Nature.

  • "At the beginning of the pandemic, there were wild claims, with some people saying having lockdowns and social distancing is going to lead people to despair. They're going to take to the bottle, they're going to start hitting their spouses, and they're going to start being suicidal. On the other end of the spectrum, you have people saying, 'actually, no, you need to have lockdowns to calm the population — people are very anxious,'" Brülhart tells Axios.

What they found: The team examined 8 million calls or texts to 23 helplines in 14 EU countries, the U.S., China, Hong Kong, Israel and Lebanon from 2019 to early 2021.

  • They found a 35% rise on average in helpline calls, which peaked about six weeks after the initial outbreak.
  • "We were really interested to see what was behind the increase in the calls, and we were kind of relieved to see there were two main motives for people to call: They were anxious about the virus and anxious about getting infected. The other one was loneliness, [as] people with stay-at-home orders were cut off from their social circle," Brülhart says.
  • The risk of suicide did not appear to increase, he says, matching U.S. reports showing a national decline in 2020.

The team then looked at data from 10 of the countries that described why roughly 2.2 million people reached out during the initial pandemic wave.

  • They found the timing of strict lockdown and social distancing measures was linked to increased calls due to fear, loneliness and suicidal thinking.
  • However, the timing of governments' financial support for workers appeared to help alleviate that distress, Brülhart says.

Between the lines: There are few real-time trackers to gauge mental health during a global public health emergency such as a pandemic. For instance, suicide statistics can be released years later, Brülhart says, whereas infection rates, hospitalizations and economic indicators are updated quickly.

  • Helplines tend to track their completely anonymized data in real-time and tend to be relatively consistent globally. Brülhart says that "there's this sort of dormant treasure of information that strangely mental health researchers have not tapped yet."

Yes, but: The data is anonymized so certain characteristics, factors or entire groups may not be included, Liu and Brülhart say.

  • Another limitation, Liu points out, is that the categories looked at — for example, loneliness, relationship concerns and interpersonal violence — are related and intersecting, as "life in general is kind of messy."
  • "Loneliness itself is probably an ongoing concern. It may have been present before the pandemic and got worse during the pandemic — and actually still may be an issue, but not necessarily presented as loneliness. It can still be very much a relationship issue. So, I think there's more room for growth in how to actually categorize the content of these calls," Liu says.

Go deeper: The risk of loneliness and trauma from COVID-19

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: dial 711 then 1-800-273-8255) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

Go deeper

Nov 26, 2021 - Health

Updated data shows Merck antiviral COVID pill less effective

Photo: Paul Weaver/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Merck said Friday updated data from a study on its experimental COVID-19 pill showed the drug is less effective than initially reported.

Driving the news: The drugmaker said molnupiravir reduced the risk of hospitalization or death for patients with mild or moderate COVID-19 by about 30%, based on a study of more than 1,400 adults. Last month, the company said the study showed about 50% efficacy, based on data from 775 patients.

Updated 13 hours ago - Health

First North American Omicron cases identified in Canada

COVID-19 testing personnel at Toronto Pearson International Airport in September. Photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

The first two cases of the new Omicron variant have been detected in North America, the Canadian government announced Sunday evening.

Driving the news: The World Health Organization has named Omicron a "variant of concern," but cautioned earlier on Sunday that it is not yet clear whether it's more transmissible than other strains of COVID-19.

Nov 26, 2021 - Health

U.S. to restrict air travel from 8 countries over new COVID variant concerns

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The U.S. will impose new air travel restrictions in response to the Omicron variant, a new COVID strain first detected in South Africa, President Biden announced Friday.

The big picture: Air travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi will be restricted starting on Monday.