Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on mental health: An international study

PLoS One. 2020 Dec 31;15(12):e0244809. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0244809. eCollection 2020.

Abstract

Background: The COVID-19 pandemic triggered vast governmental lockdowns. The impact of these lockdowns on mental health is inadequately understood. On the one hand such drastic changes in daily routines could be detrimental to mental health. On the other hand, it might not be experienced negatively, especially because the entire population was affected.

Methods: The aim of this study was to determine mental health outcomes during pandemic induced lockdowns and to examine known predictors of mental health outcomes. We therefore surveyed n = 9,565 people from 78 countries and 18 languages. Outcomes assessed were stress, depression, affect, and wellbeing. Predictors included country, sociodemographic factors, lockdown characteristics, social factors, and psychological factors.

Results: Results indicated that on average about 10% of the sample was languishing from low levels of mental health and about 50% had only moderate mental health. Importantly, three consistent predictors of mental health emerged: social support, education level, and psychologically flexible (vs. rigid) responding. Poorer outcomes were most strongly predicted by a worsening of finances and not having access to basic supplies.

Conclusions: These results suggest that on whole, respondents were moderately mentally healthy at the time of a population-wide lockdown. The highest level of mental health difficulties were found in approximately 10% of the population. Findings suggest that public health initiatives should target people without social support and those whose finances worsen as a result of the lockdown. Interventions that promote psychological flexibility may mitigate the impact of the pandemic.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology*
  • COVID-19 / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics*
  • SARS-CoV-2*
  • Socioeconomic Factors

Grant support

This work was supported by grants from the Swiss National Science Foundation awarded to Andrew T. Gloster (PP00P1_ 163716/1 & PP00P1_190082). The funder provided support in the form of salaries for authors [ATG], but did not have any additional role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The specific roles of these authors are articulated in the ‘author contributions’ section. One of the authors is employed by a commercial affiliation: Private Pratice, Poland. This affiliation provided support in the form of salaries for authors [BK], but did not have any additional role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.