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Publication Detail
Depressive and anxiety symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic: A two-year follow-up
Abstract

Background

There has been much research into the mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and how it is related to time-invariant individual characteristics (e.g. age and gender). However, there is still a lack of research showing long-term trajectories of mental health across different stages of the pandemic. And little is known regarding the longitudinal association of time-varying contextual and individual factors (e.g. COVID-19 policy response and pandemic intensity) with mental health outcomes. This study aimed to provide a longitudinal profile of how depressive and anxiety symptoms changed by month between March 2020 and April 2022, and to examine their longitudinal associations with time-varying contextual and individual level factors.

Methods and findings

Drawing data from a large panel study of over 58,000 adults living in England, we showed that mental health changes were largely in line with changes in COVID-19 policy response and pandemic intensity. Further, data were analysed using fixed-effects, with models fitted separately across three stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. We found that more stringent policy response was associated with increased mental health symptoms, in particular during lockdown periods. Higher COVID-19 deaths were also associated with poorer mental health, but this association weakened over time. Finally, there was also evidence for the longitudinal association of mental health with individual level factors, including confidence in government/healthcare/essentials, COVID-19 knowledge, COVID-19 stress, COVID-19 infection and social support.

Conclusions

Our results provided empirical evidence on how changes in contextual and individual level factors were related to depressive and anxiety symptoms. While some factors clearly acted as consistent predictors of mental health during a pandemic, other factors were dependent on the specific situations occurring within society. This could provide important implications for policy making and for a better understanding of mental health of the general public during a national or global health crisis.
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Behavioural Science and Health
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Behavioural Science and Health
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