A Nationwide Survey of Psychological Distress among Italian People during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Immediate Psychological Responses and Associated Factors

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 May 2;17(9):3165. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17093165.


The uncontrolled spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has called for unprecedented measures, to the extent that the Italian government has imposed a quarantine on the entire country. Quarantine has a huge impact and can cause considerable psychological strain. The present study aims to establish the prevalence of psychiatric symptoms and identify risk and protective factors for psychological distress in the general population. An online survey was administered from 18-22 March 2020 to 2766 participants. Multivariate ordinal logistic regression models were constructed to examine the associations between sociodemographic variables; personality traits; depression, anxiety, and stress. Female gender, negative affect, and detachment were associated with higher levels of depression, anxiety, and stress. Having an acquaintance infected was associated with increased levels of both depression and stress, whereas a history of stressful situations and medical problems was associated with higher levels of depression and anxiety. Finally, those with a family member infected and young person who had to work outside their domicile presented higher levels of anxiety and stress, respectively. This epidemiological picture is an important benchmark for identifying persons at greater risk of suffering from psychological distress and the results are useful for tailoring psychological interventions targeting the post-traumatic nature of the distress.

Keywords: COVID-19; anxiety; depression; mental health intervention; pandemic; quarantine; stress.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Coronavirus Infections / prevention & control
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics* / prevention & control
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / prevention & control
  • Psychological Distress*
  • Quarantine / psychology
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult