COVID-19 Pandemic and Mental Health: Prevalence and Correlates of New-Onset Obsessive-Compulsive Symptoms in a Canadian Province

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Sep 24;17(19):6986. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17196986.


Background: This cross-sectional online survey investigates the prevalence of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) symptoms at an early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada. Methods: OCD symptoms, moderate/high stress, likely generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and likely major depressive disorder (MDD) were assessed with the Brief Obsessive-Compulsive Scale (BOCS), Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), Generalized Anxiety Disorder 7-item (GAD-7) scale, and Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) scale, respectively. Results: Out of 32,805 individuals subscribed to Text4Hope, 6041 completed an online survey; the response rate was 18.4%. Overall, 60.3% of respondents reported onset of OCD symptoms and 53.8% had compulsions to wash hands during the COVID-19 pandemic. Respondents who showed OCD symptoms only since the start of COVID-19 were significantly more likely to have moderate/high stress (z = 6.4, p < 0.001), likely GAD (z = 6.0, p < 0.001), and likely MDD (z = 2.7, p < 0.01). Similarly, respondents who engaged in compulsive hand washing were significantly more likely to have moderate/high stress (z = 4.6, p < 0.001) and likely GAD (z = 4.6 p < 0.001), but not likely MDD (z = 1.4, p = 0.16). Conclusion: The prevalence of OCD symptoms increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, at a rate significantly higher than pre-pandemic rates reported for the sample population. Presenting with OCD symptoms increased the likelihood of presenting with elevated stress, likely GAD, and likely MDD.

Keywords: COVID-19; anxiety; depression; generalized anxiety disorder; major depressive disorder; obsessive-compulsive disorder; pandemic; public health; stress; technology; text.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Betacoronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Coronavirus Infections / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Mental Health*
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / psychology*
  • Prevalence
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology