Trajectories of financial distress during the COVID-19 pandemic and their associations with mental health and substance use outcomes in a cohort of young adults

Erin Chase | 2022

Advisor: Isaac Rhew

Research Area(s): COVID-19, Psychiatric Epidemiology

Full Text

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented disruptions in the lives of young adults, with increases in job insecurity and financial strain documented for this population. Mental health problems and substance use have also increased during the pandemic, and young adults may be particularly vulnerable for experiencing these challenges. The present study examined trajectories of financial distress experienced by young adults during the COVID-19 pandemic and their associations with distal outcomes of depression, anxiety, and hazardous alcohol and cannabis use. Data from 473 young adults (ages 22-29, 62.1% women) collected from April 2020 to July/August 2021 were used to identify financial distress trajectories using a growth- mixture modeling approach. Three distinct trajectories were uncovered, with consistently Low, Moderate, and High levels of financial distress experienced by this sample. Individuals with ‘Moderate’ and ‘High’ trajectories showed significantly greater depression and anxiety symptom scores compared to those with ‘Low’ trajectories. Trajectory membership was not associated with subsequent level of hazardous alcohol or cannabis use. These findings suggest a need for providers to be aware of the psychological challenges imposed by financial distress to prevent and treat worsening mental health symptoms among young adults, especially during periods of economic downturn.