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There is accumulating evidence about detrimental impacts of the pandemic on population mental health, but knowledge on risk of groups specifically affected by the pandemic and variations across time is still limited.
We surveyed approximately n=1,000 Austrian residents in 12 waves between April and December 2020 (n=12,029). Outcomes were suicidal ideation (Beck Suicidal Ideation Scale), depressive symptoms (Patient Health Questionnaire-9), anxiety (Hospital Anxiety Depression Scale), and domestic violence. We also assessed the perceived burden from the pandemic. Demographic and Covid-19 specific occupational and morbidity-related variables were used to explain outcomes in multivariable regression analyses, controlling for well-established risk factors of mental ill-health, and variations over time were analyzed.
Young age, working in healthcare or from home, and own Covid-19 illness were consistent risk factors controlling for a wide range of known mental health risk factors. Time patterns in the perceived burden from Covid-19-related measures were consistent with the time sequence of restrictions and relaxations of governmental measures. Depressive and anxiety symptoms were relatively stable over time, with some increase of depression during the second phase of lockdowns. Domestic violence increased immediately after both hard lockdowns. Suicidal ideation decreased slightly over time, with a low during the second hard lockdown. Mental health indicators for women and young people showed some deterioration over time, whereas those reporting own Covid-19 illness improved.
Data from before the pandemic were not available.
Among mental health outcomes, increases in domestic violence and, to some smaller extent, depressive symptoms, appeared most closely related to the timing of hard lockdowns. Healthcare staff, individuals working from home, those with Covid-19, as well as young people and women are non-traditional risk groups who warrant heightened attention in prevention during and in the aftermath of the pandemic.
Thomas Niederkrotenthaler, Zrinka Laido, Stefanie Kirchner, Marlies Braun, Hannah Metzler, Thomas Waldhör, Markus Strauss, David Garcia, Benedikt Till, Mental health over nine months during the SARS-CoV2 pandemic: Representative cross-sectional survey in twelve waves between April and December 2020 in Austria, Journal of Affective Disorders 296 (2022) 49–58