Background: During the COVID-19 pandemic, public health measures such as isolation, quarantine, and social distancing are needed. Some of these measures can adversely affect mental health. Activities that can be performed at home may mitigate these consequences and improve overall mental well-being. In this study, home-based activities that have potential beneficial effects on mental health were examined.
Methods: A rapid review was conducted based on a search of the following databases: MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, PyscINFO, Global Health, epistemonikos.org, covid19reviews.org, and eppi.ioe.ac.uk/covid19_map_v13.html. Eligible studies include randomized controlled trials and non-randomized studies published between 1/1/2000 and 28/05/2020 and that examined the impact of various activities on mental health outcomes in low-resource settings and contexts that lead to social isolation. Studies of activities that require mental health professionals or that could not be done at home were excluded. Two review authors performed title/abstract screening. At the full-text review stage, 25% of the potentially eligible studies were reviewed in full by two review authors; the rest were reviewed by one review author. Risk of bias assessment and data extraction were performed by one review author and checked by a second review author. The main outcome assessed was change or differences in mental health as expressed in Cohen's d; analysis was conducted following the synthesis without meta-analysis guidelines (SWiM). PROSPERO registration: CRD42020186082.
Results: Of 1,236 unique records identified, 160 were reviewed in full, resulting in 16 included studies. The included studies reported on the beneficial effects of exercise, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, and listening to relaxing music. One study reported on the association between solitary religious activities and post traumatic stress disorder symptoms. While most of the included studies examined activities in group settings, particularly among individuals in prisons, the activities were described as something that can be performed at home and alone. All included studies were assessed to be at risk of bias in one or more of the bias domains examined.
Conclusions: There is some evidence that certain home-based activities can promote mental wellness during the COVID-19 pandemic. Guidelines are needed to help optimize benefits while minimizing potential risks when performing these activities.