Introduction: The COVID-19 pandemic has enormously affected the psychological well-being, social and working life of millions of people across the world. This study aimed to investigate the psychological distress, fear and coping strategies as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated factors among Malaysian residents.
Methods: Participants were invited to an online cross-sectional survey from Aug-Sep 2020. The study assessed psychological distress using the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale, level of fear using the Fear of COVID-19 Scale, and coping strategies using the Brief Resilient Coping Scale. Univariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses were conducted to adjust for potential confounders.
Results: The mean age (±SD) of the participants (N = 720) was 31.7 (±11.5) years, and most of them were females (67.1%). Half of the participants had an income source, while 216 (30%) identified themselves as frontline health or essential service workers. People whose financial situation was impacted due to COVID-19 (AOR 2.16, 95% CIs 1.54-3.03), people who drank alcohol in the last four weeks (3.43, 1.45-8.10), people who were a patient (2.02, 1.39-2.93), and had higher levels of fear of COVID-19 (2.55, 1.70-3.80) were more likely to have higher levels of psychological distress. Participants who self-isolated due to exposure to COVID-19 (3.12, 1.04-9.32) and who had moderate to very high levels of psychological distress (2.56, 1.71-3.83) had higher levels of fear. Participants who provided care to a family member/patient with a suspected case of COVID-19 were more likely to be moderately to highly resilient compared to those who did not.
Conclusion: Vulnerable groups of individuals such as patients and those impacted financially during COVID-19 should be supported for their mental wellbeing. Behavioural interventions should be targeted to reduce the impact of alcohol drinking during such crisis period.