The COVID-19 pandemic in Italy: Depressive symptoms immediately before and after the first lockdown

J Affect Disord. 2022 Feb 1;298(Pt A):202-208. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2021.10.129. Epub 2021 Oct 31.


Background: Italy was one of the first countries to be heavily hit by the spread of the new Coronavirus. Longitudinal studies are needed to investigate the real effect of COVID-19 on adult mental health. The Italian Twin Registry carried out a study to investigate, over time, the course of depressive symptoms in the general population.

Methods: The study relies on data collected just before the beginning (February 2020) and the end (June 2020) of the first lockdown. Symptoms of depression were assessed using the Patient Health Questionnaire, and total scores or categorized depression scores were considered in the analyzes.

Results: A total of 1690 adult twins were recruited. The study showed a mean depression score of 1.11 immediately before lockdown and 1.20 immediately after, with an overall prevalence of depressive symptoms increasing from 33.6 to 38.9%. Depressive symptoms immediately after the restriction period were associated with Covid-19 symptoms affecting households, financial problems due to the pandemic and poor social support. Independently of the baseline risk of depressive symptoms, we observed an increased risk among younger and less educated people. Compared to the pre-lockdown period, women and middle-aged people also were found to be at greater risk of developing depressive symptoms.

Limitations: Possible participation bias and residual selection bias.

Conclusions: The study shows that the COVID-19 pandemic was associated with an increased depressive symptomatology and that, in such health emergency times, the most vulnerable persons are young adults, women, and those living in a socially, culturally, or economically disadvantaged environment.

Keywords: COVID-19; Depression; PHQ-2; Twin.

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety
  • COVID-19*
  • Communicable Disease Control
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Young Adult