The psychological impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated risk factors during the initial stage among the general population in India

Open J Psychiatry Allied Sci. 2021 Jan;12(1):31-35. doi: 10.5958/2394-2061.2021.00009.4.

Abstract

Background: In the absence of treatment and unclear prognosis, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) itself, and public health measures like lockdown enforced by the government to limit the spread of the virus poses a threat to the psychological health of the general population.

Aim: To assess the psychological status of the Indian population during the initial phase of lockdown.

Method: It was a cross-sectional online survey where the questionnaire was disbursed by snowballing. The link to the survey was shared in different social networking platforms between 6th and 22nd of April 2020. The questionnaire collected responses related to the sociodemographic variables, exposure history, precautionary measures used, and the Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scale (DASS-21) score.

Results: A total of 541 participants responded to the questionnaire. Only 422 respondents' responses from 23 states of India who completed the questionnaire were included for assessment. The mean age of the participants was 30.5 (SD=10.9) years. Female constituted 60.4% (n=255) of the respondents. The pre-existing medical illness that the respondents had were diabetes mellitus, four per cent (n=17), hypertension, five per cent (n=21), thyroid dysfunction, nine per cent (n=38), and mental illness, five per cent (n=21). The median (IQR) of the DASS-21 item scale was found to be 16 (4-32). The percentage of the respondents who reported stress was 35.5% (n=149), anxiety, 32% (n=135), and depression, 34.7% (n=146). Respondents with sociodemographic variables like being single, student status, competed education till graduation, homemakers, working in public sector, and history of mental illness were more likely to experience stress, anxiety, and depression. A majority of the respondents were practicing hand hygiene and social distancing. Respondents who were unaware of their exposure status were more likely to have depression.

Conclusion: The Indian population is experiencing the psychological impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), which may increase with the spread of the infection. India needs to gear up to face mental health consequences. People with a pre-existing physical and psychological illness needs extra care and precaution to prevent any relapse or development of complications.

Keywords: Anxiety; Depression; Mental Health; Public Health; SARS-CoV-2.