Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on mental health in the general population: A systematic review

J Affect Disord. 2020 Dec 1:277:55-64. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2020.08.001. Epub 2020 Aug 8.


Background: As a major virus outbreak in the 21st century, the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has led to unprecedented hazards to mental health globally. While psychological support is being provided to patients and healthcare workers, the general public's mental health requires significant attention as well. This systematic review aims to synthesize extant literature that reports on the effects of COVID-19 on psychological outcomes of the general population and its associated risk factors.

Methods: A systematic search was conducted on PubMed, Embase, Medline, Web of Science, and Scopus from inception to 17 May 2020 following the PRISMA guidelines. A manual search on Google Scholar was performed to identify additional relevant studies. Articles were selected based on the predetermined eligibility criteria.

Results: Relatively high rates of symptoms of anxiety (6.33% to 50.9%), depression (14.6% to 48.3%), post-traumatic stress disorder (7% to 53.8%), psychological distress (34.43% to 38%), and stress (8.1% to 81.9%) are reported in the general population during the COVID-19 pandemic in China, Spain, Italy, Iran, the US, Turkey, Nepal, and Denmark. Risk factors associated with distress measures include female gender, younger age group (≤40 years), presence of chronic/psychiatric illnesses, unemployment, student status, and frequent exposure to social media/news concerning COVID-19.

Limitations: A significant degree of heterogeneity was noted across studies.

Conclusions: The COVID-19 pandemic is associated with highly significant levels of psychological distress that, in many cases, would meet the threshold for clinical relevance. Mitigating the hazardous effects of COVID-19 on mental health is an international public health priority.

Keywords: Anxiety; COVID-19; Depression; General population; Mental health; Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Anxiety / epidemiology*
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Betacoronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • China / epidemiology
  • Coronavirus
  • Coronavirus Infections*
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Humans
  • Iran / epidemiology
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Mental Health
  • Nepal / epidemiology
  • Pandemics*
  • Pneumonia, Viral*
  • Psychological Distress
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Media
  • Spain / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Turkey / epidemiology
  • Unemployment / statistics & numerical data
  • United States / epidemiology

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