Pandemic-related behaviours and psychological outcomes; A rapid literature review to explain COVID-19 behaviours

Int J Ment Health Nurs. 2020 Dec;29(6):1018-1034. doi: 10.1111/inm.12790. Epub 2020 Oct 13.


COVID-19 spread rapidly causing widescale loss of life and economic devastation. Efforts to contain it have resulted in measures such as closing of borders and restrictions around travel, social activities and attending places of worship. We conducted this rapid review to systematically examine, synthesize, and critically appraise the available evidence on the relationship between pandemic-related behaviours and psychological outcomes. The methods were compliant with the PRISMA guidelines. The review was preregistered with PROSPERO (Registration #: CRD42020181576). A literature search was conducted from January 2010 to April 2020 using ProQuest, Web of Science, PsycINFO, PsycARTICLES, Scopus, SAGE Journals, and CINAHL. Of 3844 articles identified, we included 11 quantitative articles in the final synthesis, representing data from 32, 049 individual respondents from eight countries. We identified three pandemics (COVID-19, MERS-CoV, Influenza A(H1N1) pdm09) as well as several psychological outcomes including anxiety, mental distress, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anger. We also identified several behaviours during pandemics and categorized them into protective, preparedness, and perverse behaviours. The review showed that even though there is limited evidence regarding pandemic-related behaviours and psychological outcomes, the current findings showed that the psychological outcomes significantly impacted on the adoption of the pandemic-related behaviours. Given the negative effects of psychological outcomes on behaviours, we recommend that mental health professionals should promote mental health support to people exhibiting psychological distress resulting from similar events in the future. Also, we recommend that future research should test the hypothesized effects of pandemics and psychological outcomes on behaviour change.

Keywords: Behaviour change; Pandemic; Psychological outcomes; Rapid review; Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology
  • Coronavirus Infections / prevention & control
  • Coronavirus Infections / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Infection Control / methods
  • Mental Health*
  • Pandemics / prevention & control
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology
  • Pneumonia, Viral / prevention & control
  • Pneumonia, Viral / psychology*