Mental health, stress, and well-being measured before (2019) and during (2020) COVID-19: a Swedish socioeconomic population-based study

Psychol Health. 2023 Sep 20:1-18. doi: 10.1080/08870446.2023.2257747. Online ahead of print.


Objectives: Compare mental health, stress, and well-being in the Swedish population as measured before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods: Repeated cross-sectional design using data measured before (Jan-2019; n = 2791) and during (Oct/Nov-2020; n = 2926) COVID-19 pandemic in Swedish population-representative cohorts. Following constructs were measured: anxiety (Beck Anxiety Inventory), depression (Beck Depression Inventory-II), stress (Perceived Stress Scale-10 items), health-related quality of life (HRQOL[Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-General Population]) and self-rated health (SRH) was assessed with a single-item question.

Results: When adjusting for age, sex, education, and income there were significantly higher levels of anxiety (M̂ = 9.15 vs. 8.48, p < 0.01) and depression (M̂ = 3.64 vs. 3.30, p = 0.03), lower levels of stress (M̂ = 14.06 vs. 14.91, p < 0.001), but worsened HRQOL (M̂ = 76.40 vs. 77.92, p < 0.01) and SRH (M̂ = 6.91 vs. 7.20, p < 0.001), observed in 2020 compared to 2019. For the negative effects seen in anxiety, depression, HRQOL, and SRH, higher income and education had a protective effect. The decrease in stress was also correlated with higher income.

Conclusions: The COVID-19 pandemic led to a small but significant worsening in mental health and well-being in the general Swedish population, where higher socioeconomic status seemed to have a protective effect.

Keywords: COVID-19; mental health; socioeconomic status; stress; sweden; well-being.