Prevalence of posttraumatic and general psychological stress during COVID-19: A rapid review and meta-analysis

Psychiatry Res. 2020 Oct:292:113347. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2020.113347. Epub 2020 Jul 31.


Emerging evidence suggests rates of posttraumatic stress and psychological stress in the general population are elevated due to COVID-19. However, a meta-analysis is needed to attain more precise prevalence estimates due to between-study variability. Thus, we performed a rapid review and meta-analysis of posttraumatic stress and general psychological stress symptoms during COVID-19. Electronic searches were conducted up to May 26th, 2020 using key terms: mental illness and COVID-19. A total of k = 14 non-overlapping studies were identified for inclusion. Random effects meta-analyses indicated that the pooled prevalence of posttraumatic stress symptoms and psychological stress in the general population was 23.88% and 24.84%, respectively. In both meta-analyses, the prevalence of stress symptoms was higher in unpublished compared to peer-reviewed studies. Overall, nearly one-in-four adults experienced significant stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Psychological resources and services must be allocated to help address the mental health burden of COVID-19. High quality, longitudinal research on the long-term mental health effects of the pandemic is greatly needed.

Keywords: COVID-19; Mental health; Meta-analysis; Posttraumatic stress; Psychological stress; Rapid review.

Publication types

  • Letter
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Betacoronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology
  • Coronavirus Infections / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mental Health
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology
  • Pneumonia, Viral / psychology*
  • Prevalence
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology