Network analysis of depressive and anxiety symptoms in adolescents during and after the COVID-19 outbreak peak

Rui Liu, Xu Chen, Han Qi, Yuan Feng, Zhaohui Su, Teris Cheung, Todd Jackson, Hui Lei, Ling Zhang, Yu Tao Xiang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: This study examined the extent to which the network structure of anxiety and depression among adolescents identified during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic could be cross-validated in a sample of adolescents assessed after the COVID-19 peak. Methods: Two cross-sectional surveys were conducted between February 20 and 27, 2020 and between April 11 and 19, 2020, respectively. Depressive and anxiety symptoms were assessed using the 20-item Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression and 7-item Generalized Anxiety Disorder, respectively. Anxiety-depression networks of the first and second assessments were estimated separately using a sparse Graphical Gaussian Model combined with the graphical least absolute shrinkage and selection operator method. A Network Comparison Test was conducted to assess differences between the two networks. Results: The most central symptoms in the first and second survey networks were Depressed affect and Nervousness. Compared with connections in the first survey network, connections in the second survey network analysis between Relax-Nervousness–Depressed affect–Interpersonal problems (diff, contrast: second survey–first survey. diff=-0.04, P = 0.04; diff=-0.03, P = 0.03; diff=-0.03, P = 0.04), and Irritability–Somatic complaints (diff=-0.04, P = 0.02) were weaker while connections of Somatic complaints-Nervousness (diff=0.05, P<0.001), Somatic complaints–Depressed affect (diff=0.03, P = 0.009), and Irritability–Control worry–Restlessness (diff=0.02, P = 0.03; diff=0.05, P = 0.02) were stronger. Conclusions: Depressed affect emerged as a robust central symptom and bridge symptom across Anxiety-Depression networks. Considering the negative impact of depression and anxiety on daily life, timely interventions targeting depressed affect should be implemented to reduce the co-occurrence of anxious and depressive symptoms among adolescents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)463-471
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2022


  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety
  • COVID-19
  • Depression
  • Network analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

Cite this