The immediate impact of lockdown measures on mental health and couples’ relationships during the COVID-19 pandemic: Results of a representative population survey in Germany

C. Sachser*, Gabriel Olaru, Elisa Pfeiffer, Elmar Brähler, Vera Clemens, Miriam Rassenhofer, Andreas Wit, Jörg M. Fegert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Background
Lockdown measures during the COVID-19 pandemic are expected to have negative effects on mental health and relationship quality. However, little is known about the magnitude of these psychological effects on a population level and for vulnerable subgroups.

Methods
A representative sample (N = 2503; 50.2% female; mean age = 49.5) of the German population was assessed face-to-face during the COVID-19 pandemic (February 10-April 25, 2020). They were examined for differences in mental health (BSI-18) and relationship quality (PFB) in a pre-lockdown and lockdown subsamples. After testing and establishing the measurement models in confirmatory factor analyses, we added covariates as predictors of the factors to the regression model to investigate the impact of the lockdown measures.

Results
Overall, participants included after the introduction of lockdown measures reported significantly fewer mental health problems than participants included before the lockdown. Predictor analyses revealed that this effect was larger for participants of younger age and those with higher household income. There was no significant difference in relationship quality between pre-lockdown and lockdown. However, relationship quality improved for younger participants after the lockdown measures started, but deteriorated for older participants.

Conclusions
The German population was found to be largely resilient to the immediate effects of lockdown on mental health and relationship quality. Older participants and those with lower socio-economic status might constitute risk groups during times of lockdown. Further studies in countries affected by more drastic lockdown measures and the long-term consequences of the pandemic are needed to inform decision makers about the psychological effects of lockdown.
Original languageEnglish
Article number113954
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Volume278
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Corona
  • Mental health
  • Pandemic
  • Relationship quality

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