Elevated serious psychological distress, economic disruption, and the COVID-19 pandemic in the nonmetropolitan American West

Paul Berne Burow , Justin Farrell and 3 other contributors

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    In this study we examined the psychological distress, self-rated health, COVID-19 exposure, and economic disruption of a sample of the nonmetropolitan western U.S. population and labor force one year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Using novel primary survey data from non-metropolitan counties in the eleven contiguous western United States collected from February 28 until April 3, 2021 (n = 1203), we descriptively analyzed variables and estimated binomial and multinomial logit models of the association between economic disruption, COVID-19 exposure, self-rated health, and psychological distress. Results showed there was widespread presence of psychological distress, COVID-19 exposure, and economic disruption among the overall sample and members of the labor force. There was extremely high incidence of serious psychological distress (14.8% CI [12.1,17.8] of the weighted sample), which was heightened among the labor force (16.6%, CI [13.0,20.9] of those in the labor force). We found economic disruption was associated with severe psychological distress, but exposure to infection was not. Comparatively, overall self-rated health was at similar levels as prior research and was not significantly associated with economic disruption or COVID-19 exposure. COVID-19, particularly its associated economic effects, had a significant relationship with serious psychological distress in this sample of adults in the nonmetropolitan western United States.