Mutations in novel coronavirus make it more dangerous
The study found that people who were experiencing coronavirus symptoms or in a vulnerable group did not display significant differences in mental health and wellbeing. Both these groups made up over a tenth of each of the total number of participants.
Greater anxiety and depression were experienced by those who self-isolated before the lockdown due to coronavirus symptoms. This group had lower levels of overall wellbeing and quality of life, as compared to those who did not. People who felt isolated to a greater extent after the lockdown began shared these characteristics.
Those people who felt that COVID-19 might threaten their livelihood – about 46% - said that they were more depressed and enjoyed a lower quality of life. Essential workers (about a third) were much less depressed than the average.
On the other hand, those who believed that the pandemic had actually encouraged more people to be kinder towards each other made up over two-thirds of the group. These people were less depressed and said their quality of life was higher, on average, with better wellbeing, compared to those who did not appreciate greater kindness from other people during the lockdown.
The same feelings were reported by those who said the local community had drawn closer together since the lockdown began. Finally, people with a sense of being supported by the social system as a whole or in any part were happier, less depressed, and had both a higher sense of wellbeing and greater quality of life. What do the results mean?
According to the study, current general anxiety and depression scores are higher than normal, and more so in women than men. The study suggests that the absence of significant pathological depression or anxiety in essential workers may be due to the importance of their work and/or public recognition of their efforts (though it acknowledges that their findings are open to interpretation).
The association of depression and anxiety with isolation and poor social support emphasizes the need for newer ways of keeping people connected and supported during times of poor social contact.
The OXCAP-MH tool used in this study gives value to individual freedom to do one’s own thing, in terms of both self-identity and competence.
There are some significant limitations to the study: the sample was restricted to those who fill out forms on social media, while males, as well as black and minority ethnic groups, were underrepresented. The fact that the data was collected over a relatively short time frame limits the conclusions that can be drawn.
The study forms a small part of a long-term tracking program to understand how the pandemic and the lockdown affected mental health and wellbeing. The preliminary results indicate the need to study this area more, to design policies in public health emergencies that alleviate the impact of sweeping measures on mental health. Journal reference: White, R. G. and Van der Boor (2020). The impact of the COVID19 pandemic and initial period of lockdown on the mental health and wellbeing of UK adults. medRxiv preprint doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.04.24.20078550 . https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.04.24.20078550v1
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