Eight to ten days after they were quarantined due to the spread of COVID-19, more than half of participants in a fresh study reported the psychological effects of the outbreak as “moderate or severe.” The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health study used common psychologcal measures to evaluate stress, anxiety, depression, trauma, and other mental health factors on Chinese respondents soon after their government locked them into their homes as virus transmission increased.
“[J]ust two weeks into the country’s outbreak of COVID-19 and one day after [the World Health Organization] declared public health emergency of international concern, 53.8% of respondents rated the psychological impact of outbreak as moderate or severe; 16.5% of respondents reported moderate to severe depressive symptoms; 28.8% of respondents reported moderate to severe anxiety symptoms; and 8.1% reported moderate to severe stress levels,” the study says.
It found that women and students were more likely to express mental stresses as a result of the Wuhan pandemic. While the study naturally oversampled women and students due to its non-random collection mechanism, which involved starting with college students and asking them to refer friends, extensive psychological research has found that women, teens, and young adults are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and other mental health difficulties in general.
“[M]ajor cities in China have shut down schools at all levels indefinitely. The uncertainty and potential negative impact on academic progression could have an adverse effect on the mental health of students,” the study notes. During the SARS epidemic, younger people were also more significantly psychologically affected, it says.
The study’s researchers surveyed 1,210 people in 194 Chinese cities, all of which had coronavirus cases when the study was conducted. They claim it is the first study to examine mental health instead of physical health related to the Wuhan flu epidemic.
Its findings, however, are pretty well in line with previous research on mental health. It is well established that disruptions in routines, major uncertainty, and setbacks such as job losses significantly affect people. Since humans’ minds and bodies are connected, mental health affects physical health.
“People with depression have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease, for example. Research also suggests that people with depression are at higher risk for osteoporosis relative to others,” says the National Institute of Mental Health.
In the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health study, 85 percent of respondents were spending 20-24 hours per day at home, 61 percent reported no physical symptoms, and 64 pecent rated their physical health as “good.” “The majority of respondents (>70%) were worried about their family members contracting COVID-19, but they believed that they would survive if infected.”
Seventy-five percent of respondents were worried a family member would contract COVID-19, but only 51 percent worried a child younger than 16 would contract the virus. The more concerned they were about a family member getting sick, the higher was respondents’ overall depression and anxiety.
The respondents appeared to try to self-soothe by taking precautionary measures against infection, the study noted, such as washing hands and wearing masks. Even if they didn’t have any symptoms or contact with people who had symptoms, doing these things helped them feel better by giving them a sense of at least some control over their chaos-tossed lives.