Health

Psychological Distress: Acute Depression, Stress & Anxiety Higher During Peak of COVID-19 Pandemic

Rates of psychological distress, including depression and anxiety symptoms, were found among Australian adults during the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak in Australia, according to a new study published July 28, 2020 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Jill Newby of the University of New South Wales at the Black Dog Institute, Sydney, Australia, and colleagues.

The acute and long-term mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are largely unknown. Research into previous pandemics has shown higher rates of illness fears, psychological distress, insomnia and other mental health problems in people with pre-existing mental illness, front-line health care workers, and survivors of the disease. Research into the mental health impacts of COVID-19 is needed to inform policy decisions, prevention efforts, treatment programs, and community support systems.

In the new study, researchers used an online survey, administered March 27 through April 7–now considered to be the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak in Australia–to examine mental health responses to the pandemic among 5070 Australian adults. The online questionnaire asked participants about their fears, behavioral responses to COVID-19, psychological distress, alcohol use, and physical activity. A similar survey had already been carried out among 2,174 Australians in early March, when cases in the country were still low.

The population included in the survey was not representative of the overall population; 70% had pre-existing mental health diagnoses, 86% were female, and 75% were Caucasian. Although few participants had contracted COVID-1019 (0.15%), more than one-quarter (25.9%) were very or extremely worried about contracting the virus and more than half (52.7%) were very or extremely worried about their family and friends. While the questionnaires could not be used to make any diagnoses, most participants reported that their mental health had worsened during the outbreak, with 55% saying it had worsened a little and 23% saying it had worsened a lot. Around half of all participants reported moderate to extreme loneliness and worry about their financial situation. Between 20.3 and 24.1% of people surveyed had been experiencing severe or extremely severe levels of depression, anxiety and stress over the week preceding their survey, and another 18 to 22% had moderate symptoms.

Newby says: “We wanted to provide a snapshot of the mental health of the general community during the COVID-19 outbreak and look into the impact of the enforcement of social distancing laws, in Australia.” She adds, “We don’t know what the long-term impacts of the pandemic will be, but these figures certainly show a negative impact on mental health in the short-term.”

Reference: “Acute mental health responses during the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia” by Jill M. Newby, Kathleen O’Moore, Samantha Tang, Helen Christensen and Kate Faasse, 28 July 2020, PLoS ONE.
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0236562

This study was funded by a MRFF Career Development Fellowship to JMN. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Share

View Comments

  • wow.. psychological issues, because of a rampaging global pandemic and governments failing to contain it..who would have thought..

    New study: "People living in poverty have less money!" :O

    much surprise

Recent Posts

Non-Invasive Laser Light Therapy Could Improve Short-Term Memory by Up to 25 Percent

In a study published on December 2 in the journal Science Advances, laser light therapy…

December 8, 2022

NASA Artemis I – Flight Day 22: Orion Spacecraft Continues Its Journey Back to Earth

https://youtu.be/MzimIloHRs4 On flight day 20, Orion captured the crescent Earth in the distance as the…

December 8, 2022

“Game-Changing” Discovery of World’s Oldest DNA Breaks Record by One Million Years

A ‘game-changing’ new chapter in the history of evolution has been opened after two-million-year-old DNA…

December 8, 2022

New Research: Your Choice of COVID Vaccine Can Increase Your Risk of Myocarditis

The study found that Moderna had greater rates of heart inflammation than Pfizer, although the…

December 7, 2022

New Potential for Reversing Aging: Scientists Discover Changes in Aging Stem Cells

Scientists have developed a method to identify aging muscle stem cells. The issue of aging…

December 7, 2022

Cleaning Up Toxic “Protein Clumps” Could Prevent Dementia

Sparking Learning and Memory Recent research from the University of Queensland suggests that clearing out…

December 7, 2022