Nearly a year after the classification of the COVID-19 outbreak as a global pandemic, it is clear that different factors have contributed to an increase in psychological disorders, including public health measures that infringe on personal freedoms, growing financial losses, and conflicting messages. This study examined the evolution of psychosocial impacts with the progression of the pandemic in adult populations from different countries and continents, and identified, among a wide range of individual and country-level factors, which ones are contributing to this evolving psychological response. An online survey was conducted in May/June 2020 and in November 2020, among a sample of 17,833 adults (Phase 1: 8806; Phase 2: 9027) from eight countries/regions (Canada, the United States, England, Switzerland, Belgium, Hong Kong, the Philippines, New Zealand). Probable generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and major depressive episode (MDE) were assessed. The independent role of potential factors was examined using multilevel logistic regression. Probable GAD or MDE was indicated by 30.1% and 32.5% of the respondents during phases 1 and 2, respectively (a 7.9% increase over time), with an important variation according to countries/regions (range from 22.3% in Switzerland to 38.8% in the Philippines). This proportion exceeded 50% among young adults (18-24 years old) in all countries except for Switzerland. Beyond young age, several factors negatively influenced mental health in times of pandemic; important factors were found, including weak sense of coherence (adjusted odds ratio aOR = 3.89), false beliefs (aOR = 2.33), and self-isolation/quarantine (aOR = 2.01). The world has entered a new era dominated by psychological suffering and rising demand for mental health interventions, along a continuum from health promotion to specialized healthcare. More than ever, we need to innovate and build interventions aimed at strengthening key protective factors, such as sense of coherence, in the fight against the adversity caused by the concurrent pandemic and infodemic.
Keywords: pandemic; psychosocial impacts; sense of coherence.