Nevada ER visits for anxiety, depression skyrocketed in last decade
In Nevada, mental health visits to emergency rooms have skyrocketed in the last nine years from 2010 to 2019, but saw a dip during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to data from the State of Nevada Division of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Department of Public and Behavioral Health.
The spikes in data come from Nevadans visiting emergency rooms for behavioral health needs like anxiety and depression.
“While we do not know the exact cause of this increase, we know anxiety symptoms are complicated and dramatic, often appearing with symptoms leading people to think they’re experiencing life-threatening events,” the DHHS said via email.
Anxiety is the leading mental health-related diagnosis since 2012 in Nevada emergency department encounters, with rates and counts increasing significantly from 2010 to 2019, but decreased significantly in 2019-2021 “most likely due to the impact of COVID-19,” according to a report by the state DHHS.
“It is possible less people experiencing symptoms discussed above sought emergency department treatment due to the complications and social distancing concerns of the pandemic,” the DHHS said in an email.
In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global prevalence of anxiety increased by 27.6% and depression increased by a massive 25.6% in 2020, according to a 2022 scientific brief released by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The Nevada spike mirrors U.S. trends.
In a national report, the proportion of emergency room visits for mental health diagnoses increased from 6.6% to 10.9% between 2007 to 2016. The report noted that the increase “may indicate suboptimal delivery of effective or acceptable outpatient mental health care, particularly for substance use-related conditions.”
But the increase in Nevada is more dramatic.
In 2010, roughly 4,000 people visited emergency rooms for depression and another 4,000 visited for anxiety. Nine years later, four times as many, roughly 16,000, people visited emergency rooms for anxiety, and the number of people visiting ERs for depression more than doubled to roughly 10,000.
Nevada’s population grew by 15% over roughly the same period.
Overall, women have significantly higher emergency room visits for depression, bipolar disorder, and PTSD. Men account for significantly higher encounters with schizophrenia and suicide ideation in the state, according to the state report.
Suicidal ideation, bipolar disorder, PTSD, and schizophrenia also saw increases, though not as dramatically as anxiety and depression.
The data is based on hospital emergency billing data and the categories are not mutually exclusive and rates were calculated to include population growth.