Association of Different Restriction Levels With COVID-19-Related Distress and Mental Health in Somatic Inpatients: A Secondary Analysis of Swiss General Hospital Data

Front Psychiatry. 2022 May 3:13:872116. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2022.872116. eCollection 2022.


Background: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and related countermeasures hinder health care access and affect mental wellbeing of non-COVID-19 patients. There is lack of evidence on distress and mental health of patients hospitalized due to other reasons than COVID-19-a vulnerable population group in two ways: First, given their risk for physical diseases, they are at increased risk for severe courses and death related to COVID-19. Second, they may struggle particularly with COVID-19 restrictions due to their dependence on social support. Therefore, we investigated the association of intensity of COVID-19 restrictions with levels of COVID-19-related distress, mental health (depression, anxiety, somatic symptom disorder, and mental quality of life), and perceived social support among Swiss general hospital non-COVID-19 inpatients.

Methods: We analyzed distress of 873 hospital inpatients not admitted for COVID-19, recruited from internal medicine, gynecology, rheumatology, rehabilitation, acute geriatrics, and geriatric rehabilitation wards of three hospitals. We assessed distress due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and four indicators of mental health: depressive and anxiety symptom severity, psychological distress associated with somatic symptoms, and the mental component of health-related quality of life; additionally, we assessed social support. The data collection period was divided into modest (June 9 to October 18, 2020) and strong (October 19, 2020, to April 17, 2021) COVID-19 restrictions, based on the Oxford Stringency Index for Switzerland.

Results: An additional 13% (95%-Confidence Interval 4-21%) and 9% (1-16%) of hospital inpatients reported distress related to leisure time and loneliness, respectively, during strong COVID-19 restrictions compared to times of modest restrictions. There was no evidence for changes in mental health or social support.

Conclusions: Focusing on the vulnerable population of general hospital inpatients not admitted for COVID-19, our results suggest that tightening of COVID-19 restrictions in October 2020 was associated with increased COVID-19-related distress regarding leisure time and loneliness, with no evidence for a related decrease in mental health. If this association was causal, safe measures to increase social interaction (e.g., virtual encounters and outdoor activities) are highly warranted.

Trial registration:, identifier: NCT04269005.

Keywords: anxiety; depression; health-related quality of life; pandemic; social support.

Associated data