Anxiety and depression symptoms, the recovery from symptoms, and loneliness before and after the COVID-19 outbreak among the general population: Findings from a Dutch population-based longitudinal study

P.G. van der Velden*, Philip Hyland, Carlo Contino, Hans-Martin von Gaudecker, Ruud Muffels, J.W.M. Das

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

Objectives: 

Examine the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health and loneliness in the general population. More specifically, the study focused on prevalence of anxiety and depression symptoms, the extent to which individuals with existing symptoms recovered or not, the prevalence of subtypes of loneliness, and the extent to which loneliness before and during this pandemic was associated with anxiety and depression symptoms. 

Methods: 

Data was extracted from the longitudinal LISS panel, based on a probability sample of the Dutch population, with assessments on loneliness in October 2019 (T1) and June 2020 (T4), and anxiety and depression symptoms in November 2019 (T2), March 2020 (T3) and June 2020 (T4; Ntotal = 4,084). Loneliness was examined with the De Jong Gierveld Loneliness Scale and anxiety and depression symptoms with the Mental Health Inventory (MHI-5). 

Results: 

Repeated measures multivariate logistic regression analyses (RMMLRA) showed a statistical significant lower prevalence of anxiety and depression symptoms after the outbreak (T4 = 15.3%) than before (T2 = 16.8%) and during the COVID-19 outbreak (T3 = 17.2%). According to the Reliable Change Index, the distribution of recovery categories (remission, improvement, unchanged and worsening symptoms) after the outbreak did not differ significantly from the distribution of these categories before the outbreak. RMMLRA revealed that the prevalence of emotional loneliness increased significantly after the outbreak (T1 = 18.4%, T4 = 24.8%). Among individuals who were not lonely before and after the outbreak the prevalence of symptoms decreased significantly (T2 = 7.0%, T4 = 4.4%) and, likewise, among those who were not lonely anymore after the outbreak (T2 = 21.5%, T4 = 14.5%). However, the prevalence of symptoms increased significantly among those who became lonely during the pandemic (T2 = 17.9%, T4 = 26.3%). 

Conclusions: 

Findings suggest that this pandemic did not negatively affect the prevalence of anxiety and depression symptoms nor the normal recovery of symptoms among the general population during the first four months, but that emotional loneliness increased.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0245057
Number of pages17
JournalPLOS ONE
Volume16
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety/epidemiology
  • COVID-19/epidemiology
  • Communicable Disease Control
  • Depression/epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Loneliness
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands/epidemiology
  • Physical Distancing
  • Prospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires

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