"This Pandemic Is Making Me More Anxious about My Welfare and the Welfare of Others:" COVID-19 Stressors and Mental Health

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 May 26;18(11):5680. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18115680.


COVID-19 and subsequent social distancing guidelines have changed many aspects of people's daily lives including the way that they interact within their social environment. Pandemics are inherently social phenomena, and public health measures intended to curtail transmission of COVID-19 (e.g., quarantine and social distancing) have consequences for individuals with anxiety and depression. Using qualitative methods, respondents with previously diagnosed anxiety or depression identified ways in which COVID-19 affected their symptoms at multiple levels of the social ecological model (SEM). Key themes reported were organized following the SEM. Emergent themes at the individual level are isolation/loneliness, fear of contracting COVID-19, and uncertainty about the future. Themes at the interpersonal level are: fears of family contracting COVID-19, separation from family members, and domestic relationships. Themes at the level of community and societal stressors are: employment, community and societal systems, media, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Our findings demonstrate the ways that mental health, physical health/safety, and social environments are interrelated in the experience of COVID-19 for individuals diagnosed with anxiety or depression. These findings make a significant contribution to the literature as this is the first article to document mental health stressors related to the COVID-19 pandemic among individuals with diagnosed anxiety and depressive disorders.

Keywords: COVID-19; anxiety and depression; mental health; pandemic; social environment; stressors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • COVID-19*
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Pandemics*
  • SARS-CoV-2