The impact of non-infection pandemic stress on depression and anxiety severity: Investigating mediation by intrusive and deliberate rumination

J Affect Disord. 2022 Aug 1:310:291-295. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2022.05.039. Epub 2022 May 10.


Background: Social restrictions to curb COVID-19's spread have had adverse effects on population mental health. Rumination is one mechanism through which pandemic stress (PS) might translate into psychopathology. In particular, intrusive rumination (IR) is believed to be problematic. In this study, we investigated whether IR and deliberate rumination (DR) mediated the associations between PS and both depression and anxiety severity.

Methods: 1090 participants recruited online and from an undergraduate psychology participation pool completed an assessment of COVID-19 PS, as well as the Event-Related Rumination Inventory, the Beck Depression Inventory-II, and the Beck Anxiety Inventory. Total scores for PS, IR, DR, depression, and anxiety severity were tested in a parallel mediation model.

Results: PS positively predicted IR, DR, depression, and anxiety severity. IR positively predicted 1depression and anxiety severity, whereas DR did not. Indirect effects of PS on depression and anxiety severity were significant for IR, but not DR. Direct effects of PS on anxiety and depression severity were significant. Taken together, IR partially mediated the association between PS and both measures of psychopathology, and DR did not.

Limitations: This study was limited by its cross-sectional design and the lack of assessment of when PS exposure occurred.

Conclusions: Regarding PS that is unrelated to infection by COVID-19, IR is one mechanism through which psychopathology may emerge, whereas DR appears to be benign. Promoting a shift from IR to DR may therefore be one strategy for mitigating the negative effects of PS and other stressors on mental health.

Keywords: Anxiety; COVID-19 pandemic; Depression; Rumination; Stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Humans
  • Pandemics*