COVID-19 continues to impact mental health

As COVID-19 continues to grapple the nation, with parts of Australia in lockdown again, and as the nation comes to term with new mandatories required to stop the spread of the virus, a new study has shed further light on the pandemic’s impact on our mental health.

The study published on 28 July 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.

“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,” says Ms Newby.

The researchers used an online survey, administered 27 March through 7 April 2020 to examine mental health responses to the pandemic among 5070 Australian adults.

While the survey population was not representative of the overall population (70% had pre-existing mental health diagnoses, 86% were female, and 75% were Caucasian), results indicate that mental health has worsened since the outbreak of COVID-19.

The study results indicate that more than one quarter (25.9%) were very or extremely worried about contracting the virus, and more than half (52.7%) of the respondents were very or extremely worried about their family and friends.

Furthermore, the study also found that, 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% said it had worsened a lot.

Perhaps not surprising with the lockdown measures required to help flatten the curve, moderate to extreme loneliness was reported by around half of all participants, along with 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 18-22% had moderate symptoms.

Commenting on the results, Ms Newby 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.”

As the second wave of the pandemic spreads through some parts of nation, it’s a time that requires strength, resilience and support like no other time in recent history.

Check in on your friends, use the tools available to stay connected despite being disconnected, and remember to reach out to your healthcare professional if you find that your mental health is struggling.

The following organisations are also available to help: