In March 2020, the novel 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) was declared a pandemic. In May 2020, George Floyd was murdered, catalyzing a national racial reckoning. In the Southern United States, these events occurred in the context of a history of racism and high rates of poverty and discrimination, especially among racially and ethnically minoritized populations.
In this study, we examine social vulnerabilities, the perceived impacts of COVID-19 and the national racial reckoning, and how these are associated with depression symptoms in the South.
Data were collected from 961 adults between June and November 2020 as part of an online survey study on family well-being during COVID-19. The sample was majority female (87.2%) and consisted of 661 White participants, 143 Black participants, and 157 other racial and ethnic minoritized participants. Existing social vulnerability, perceived impact of COVID-19 and racial violence and protests on families, and depressive symptoms were assessed. Hierarchical regression analysis was used to predict variance in depressive symptoms.
Half of the sample (52%) reported a negative impact of COVID-19, and 66% reported a negative impact of national racial violence/protests. Depressive symptoms were common with 49.8% meeting the cutoff for significant depressive symptoms; Black participants had lower levels of depressive symptoms. Results from the hierarchical regression analysis indicate social vulnerabilities and the perceived negative impact of COVID-19 and racial violence/protests each contribute to variance in depressive symptoms. Race-specific sensitivity analysis clarified distinct patterns in predictors of depressive symptoms.
People in the South report being negatively impacted by the confluence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the emergence of racial violence/protests in 2020, though patterns differ by racial group. These events, on top of pre-existing social vulnerabilities, help explain depressive symptoms in the South during 2020.