Background: The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is expected to have widespread and pervasive implications for mental health in terms of deteriorating outcomes and increased health service use, leading to calls for empirical research on mental health during the pandemic. Internet-based psychological measurement can play an important role in collecting imperative data, assisting to guide evidence-based decision making in practice and policy, and subsequently facilitating immediate reporting of measurement results to participants.
Objective: The aim of this study is to use an internet-based mental health measurement platform to compare the mental health profile of community members during COVID-19 with community members assessed before the pandemic.
Methods: This study uses an internet-based self-assessment tool to collect data on psychological distress, mental well-being, and resilience in community cohorts during (n=673) and prior to the pandemic (two cohorts, n=1264 and n=340).
Results: Our findings demonstrate significantly worse outcomes on all mental health measures for participants measured during COVID-19 compared to those measured before (P<.001 for all outcomes, effect sizes ranging between Cohen d=0.32 to Cohen d=0.81. Participants who demonstrated problematic scores for at least one of the mental health outcomes increased from 58% (n=197/340) before COVID-19 to 79% (n=532/673) during COVID-19, leading to only 21% (n=141) of measured participants displaying good mental health during the pandemic.
Conclusions: The results clearly demonstrate deterioration in mental health outcomes during COVID-19. Although further research is needed, our findings support the serious mental health implications of the pandemic and highlight the utility of internet-based data collection tools in providing evidence to innovate and strengthen practice and policy during and after the pandemic.
Keywords: COVID-19; internet; mental health; pandemic; positive mental health; psychological distress; psychological measurement; resilience.
©Joep van Agteren, Jonathan Bartholomaeus, Daniel B Fassnacht, Matthew Iasiello, Kathina Ali, Laura Lo, Michael Kyrios. Originally published in JMIR Mental Health (http://mental.jmir.org), 11.06.2020.