Stricter Covid-19 measures linked to negative mental health: Lancet study
Stricter pandemic policy measures – often implemented by countries that have tried to control, rather than eliminate Covid-19 – are associated with slightly worse mental health, according to two new studies published in the journal The Lancet Public Health.
Mental health impacts associated with lockdowns were worse for women and women living in households with dependent children compared to men of all ages. At the national level, countries that aimed to eliminate community transmission of Covid-19 within their borders (eliminators) experienced fewer deaths and equivalent or better mental health trends during the pandemic than countries that aimed to controlling, rather than eliminating, transmission (attenuators) .
While the first study indicates that the type and timing of the pandemic restriction play a role in determining mental health impacts, the second study suggests that these are felt disproportionately by different groups. Together, the results reinforce the idea that tougher policy measures can lead to adverse mental health outcomes and that effective policies to contain the pandemic must go hand in hand with strategies and resources to address the mental health of the population. general and those most at risk.
“This study adds to growing evidence that extreme lockdown policies, particularly lockdowns that shut down schools and entire sectors of the economy, often enforced with a tough law and order approach, are more damaging to mental health than the virus itself and should remind policy makers that such policies must be designed and implemented with their impact on the population in mind,” said Dr Vikram Patel, Professor Pershing Global Health Square, Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School told The Indian Express.
To assess how variation in Covid-19 policy restrictions affects mental health, the first study combined daily data on policy stringency with mental health data captured fortnightly from samples from 15 countries. . Countries have been grouped according to their response to Covid-19 from April 2020 to June 2021 as eliminators (Australia, Japan, Singapore and South Korea) or mitigators (Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and United Kingdom). In mitigating countries, there was a stronger link between harsh containment policies and a lower lifespan assessment compared to eliminating countries.
When looking at individual policies, those that lead to a loss of social connection and that are predominantly adopted in mitigating countries (e.g. restrictions on gatherings and stay-at-home requirements) are associated with greater distress psychological and lower life evaluations. On the other hand, policies such as the closure of schools, workplaces, public events and public transport, as well as restrictions on domestic travel, were not related to mental health.
Study author Dr Rafael Goldszmidt says: “Our research demonstrates that in addition to the intensity of the pandemic itself, the type of pandemic response pursued makes a difference to the mental health of people. Mitigation strategies may be associated with poorer mental health outcomes, at least in part because confinement measures such as long periods of confinement and physical distancing can impede social connections. Strategies that aim to eliminate transmission while promoting early action and targeted rigor can reduce deaths while protecting the mental health of people in the process. At the same time, governments must provide clear and consistent information on policy measures to increase residents’ confidence in the government’s handling of the pandemic, he added.