COVID-19 and Depressive Symptoms Among Active Component U.S. Service Members, January 2019–July 2021

Christine A. Smetana, Deven M. Patel, Shauna Stahlman, Aparna Chauhan, Natalie Y. Wells, Saixia Ying

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


This study examined the rates of depressive symptoms in active component U.S. service members prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic and eval-uated whether SARS-CoV-2 test results (positive or negative) were associated with self-reported depressive symptoms. Depressive symptoms were mea-sured by the Patient Health Questionnaire-2 (PHQ-2) screening instrument and were defined as positive if the total score was 3 or greater. From 1 January 2019 through 31 July 2021, 2,313,825 PHQ-2s were completed with an increase in the positive rate from 4.0% to 6.5% (absolute % difference, +2.5%; relative % change, +67.1%) from the beginning to the end of the period. While there was a gradual increase of 19.8% in the months prior to the pandemic (1.4%/month average), this increase grew to 40.4% during the pandemic (2.5%/month average). However, no association was found between a positive or negative SARS-CoV-2 test result and the PHQ-2 screening instrument result. These findings suggest that the accelerated increase in depressive symptoms is likely a function of the environment of the COVID-19 pandemic instead of the SARS-CoV-2 infection itself. Further research to better understand specific factors of the pandemic leading to depressive symptoms will improve efficient allocation of military medical resources and safeguard military medical readiness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-13
Number of pages7
JournalMedical Surveillance Monthly Report
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes


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