Lockdown study reports surge in health anxieties

New research into people's coping strategies faced with COVID-19 highlights the mental health toll for those shielding
4-Aug-2020 7:05 PM EDT, by University of Bath

Newswise — New research into people's coping strategies faced with COVID-19 highlights the mental health toll for those shielding

Coronavirus and the imposition of lockdown this year 'significantly raised' mental health challenges, particularly so for the most vulnerable groups, including those shielding, according to the first study to look at people's coping styles in face of the pandemic.

The new research, published today [Tuesday 4 August 2020] in the journal American Psychologist, draws on survey responses from over 800 people recruited online and via social media who answered questions over a ten-day period when the UK was in full lockdown (from 17 - 26 April 2020).

The study from psychologists at the University of Bath is the first study to substantiate extensive media debate that health anxieties were heightened as a result of the pandemic, and it is also the first study to indicate that those in vulnerable groups are clinically more distressed as a result.

Results suggest that a quarter of all participants revealed significantly elevated anxiety and depression, exacerbated by lockdown and isolation. Nearly 15% reached clinical levels of health anxiety, which reflects that health-related anxiety has become distressing and is likely to be causing preoccupation and disruption to normal activities. Health anxiety focusses on the fear of having or contracting a serious illness despite medical reassurance.

Lead author, Dr Hannah Rettie from the University of Bath's Department of Psychology explains: "The COVID-19 pandemic has caused global uncertainty which has had a direct, detrimental effect on so many people across the UK and around the world. People have been unsure when they would see relatives again, job security has been rocked, there is an increased threat to many people's health and government guidance is continuously changing, leading to much uncertainty and anxiety.

"What our research focused in on is how some individuals have struggled to tolerate and adapt to these uncertainties - much more so than in normal times. These results have important implications as we move to help people psychologically distressed by these challenging times in the weeks, months and years ahead."

Deeper analysis reveals that those in vulnerable groups - classified according to the UK government 'vulnerable' categories - report twice the rates of health-related anxiety than the general population. Those who identified themselves in these categories were on average more anxious and depressed, with anxiety and health anxiety specifically significantly higher than in non-vulnerable groups. Those who are in the vulnerable group are at risk both physically and psychologically.

Average age of participants in the study was 38 years old, 22% of whom had a pre-existing medical condition. The majority of respondents were female (80% female: 20% male).

The team who led the work hope their findings can help inform clinical practice in dealing with the mental health aftermath caused by these tumultuous past six months. They suggest one of the most important findings concerns those in vulnerable groups who demonstrate significantly higher levels of distress yet are also those most likely to have shielded for longest. This needs to be addressed by policymakers to ensure adequate and appropriately tailored provision of mental health services moving forwards, they say.

The researchers suggest that clinicians could use their findings to target intolerance of uncertainty as part of standard psychological therapies, focussing on developing coping skills to reduce distress. This could also be extended to public resources, drawing out individuals' abilities to manage uncertainty and reduce reliance on less effective coping strategies, for example denial or self-blame.

Research lead Dr Jo Daniels also of the Department of Psychology at Bath, who has written and spoken extensively about health anxiety and how this relates to coronavirus, added: "This is important research which looks at the potential mechanisms in COVID-19 related distress, a recently prioritised area of research. These findings can help us to tailor our existing psychological treatments to help those most in need but may also be useful in considering what coping strategies might be particularly helpful at a new time of uncertainty.

"We are also now better informed as to the likely number of the population that are experiencing clinical levels of health-related anxiety. This may serve to normalise distress at this difficult time and promote the uptake of emerging models of COVID-19 related distress for those who may need support at this time of uncertainty."

"While this research offers important insights into how common distress was during 'lockdown', it is important to stress that anxiety is a normal response to an abnormal situation such as a pandemic. It can be helpful to mobilise precautionary behaviours such as hand-washing and social distancing. Yet for many, as reflected in our findings, anxiety is reaching distressing levels and may continue despite easing of restrictions - it is essential we create service provision to meet this need, which is likely to be ongoing, particularly with current expectations of a second wave. Further longitudinal research is needed to establish how this may change over time."

###

 

UNIVERSITY OF BATH

The University of Bath is one of the UK's leading universities both in terms of research and our reputation for excellence in teaching, learning and graduate prospects. The University is rated Gold in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), the Government's assessment of teaching quality in universities, meaning its teaching is of the highest quality in the UK.

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 research assessment 87 per cent of our research was defined as 'world-leading' or 'internationally excellent'. From developing fuel efficient cars of the future, to identifying infectious diseases more quickly, or working to improve the lives of female farmers in West Africa, research from Bath is making a difference around the world. Find out more: http://www.bath.ac.uk/research/.

Well established as a nurturing environment for enterprising minds, Bath is ranked highly in all national league tables. We are ranked 6th in the UK by The Guardian University Guide 2020, 5th for graduate prospects in The Times & Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020, and 9th out of 131 UK universities in the Complete University Guide 2021.

SEE ORIGINAL STUDY




Filters close

Showing results

110 of 3755
Newswise: New Landmark Study at UM School of Medicine Finds Aspirin Use Reduces Risk of Death in Hospitalized COVID-19 Patients
Released: 22-Oct-2020 2:40 PM EDT
New Landmark Study at UM School of Medicine Finds Aspirin Use Reduces Risk of Death in Hospitalized COVID-19 Patients
University of Maryland Medical Center

Hospitalized COVID-19 patients who were taking a daily low-dose aspirin to protect against cardiovascular disease had a significantly lower risk of complications and death compared to those who were not taking aspirin, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM).

Released: 22-Oct-2020 2:25 PM EDT
Tocilizumab doesn't ease symptoms or prevent death in moderately ill COVID-19 inpatients
Massachusetts General Hospital

The drug tocilizumab (Actemra) does not reduce the need for breathing assistance with mechanical ventilation or prevent death in moderately ill hospitalized patients with COVID-19, according to a new study led by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).

Released: 22-Oct-2020 2:10 PM EDT
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that nursing homes "never needed" to accept patients who tested positive for COVID-19, but they did accept them
Newswise

According to a report from the New York State Department of Health, "6,326 COVID-positive residents were admitted to [nursing home] facilities" following Cuomo's mandate that nursing homes accept the readmission of COVID-positive patients from hospitals. Therefore we rate his claim as false.

Released: 22-Oct-2020 2:10 PM EDT
U of M trial shows hydroxychloroquine does not prevent COVID-19 in health care workers
University of Minnesota

University of Minnesota Medical School physician researchers studied hydroxychloroquine as a treatment to prevent COVID-19 for those with high-risk for exposure to the virus - health care workers.

Newswise: UNLV Physician: Why COVID-19 Makes Flu Shots More Important Than Ever
Released: 22-Oct-2020 1:50 PM EDT
UNLV Physician: Why COVID-19 Makes Flu Shots More Important Than Ever
University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV)

As the race for a COVID-19 vaccine intensifies, health care officials are reminding the public not to forget another important vaccine this fall: the flu shot. Flu season in the U.S. technically began in September, with illnesses expected to peak in December and February, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Less than half of Americans received a flu vaccine during the 2019-2020 flu season, and a staggering 405,000 hospitalizations and 22,000 deaths were attributed to influenza.

Newswise: 246630_web.jpg
Released: 22-Oct-2020 1:45 PM EDT
Immune response the probable underlying cause of neural damage in COVID-19
University of Gothenburg

It is probably the immune response to, rather than the virus in itself, that causes sudden confusion and other symptoms from the nervous system in some patients with COVID-19. This is shown by a study of cases involving six Swedish patients, now published in the journal Neurology.

Released: 22-Oct-2020 1:35 PM EDT
COVID-19 study: Meaning in life and self-control protect against stress
University of Innsbruck

Numerous studies over the last few weeks have pointed out that the effects of the Corona pandemic on people's mental health can be enormous and affect large parts of the population.

Newswise: Hackensack Meridian CDI, University of Michigan Demonstrate Better, Faster COVID-19 Antibody Testing
Released: 22-Oct-2020 1:30 PM EDT
Hackensack Meridian CDI, University of Michigan Demonstrate Better, Faster COVID-19 Antibody Testing
Hackensack Meridian Health

A new portable “lab on a chip,” developed by the U-M scientists and demonstrated with help of the CDI, can identify the presence of COVID-19 antibodies in blood donors with greater speed and efficiency

Released: 22-Oct-2020 1:10 PM EDT
Relieving the cost of COVID-19 by Parrondo's paradox
Singapore University of Technology and Design

The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has spread rapidly across the globe at an alarming pace, causing considerable anxiety and fear among the general public.

Newswise: COVID-19 infection may be part of a ‘perfect storm’ for Parkinson’s disease
Released: 22-Oct-2020 1:00 PM EDT
COVID-19 infection may be part of a ‘perfect storm’ for Parkinson’s disease
Van Andel Institute

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (Oct. 22, 2020) — Can COVID-19 infection increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease?


Showing results

110 of 3755

close
0.84372