Covid-19 has ‘striking’ psychological impact in Northern Ireland

One-third of people surveyed suffering from virus-related anxiety and depression –study

The psychological impact of Covid-19 during the first month of lockdown in Northern Ireland was “quite striking”, a new study from Queen’s University, Belfast has found.

The psychological impact of Covid-19 during the first month of lockdown in Northern Ireland was “quite striking”, a new study from Queen’s University, Belfast has found.

 

The psychological impact of Covid-19 during the first month of lockdown in Northern Ireland was “quite striking”, a new study from Queen’s University, Belfast has found.

The study disclosed that of 470 people surveyed one-third met the criteria for coronavirus-related anxiety and depression while one in five met the criteria for post traumatic stress disorder related to the pandemic.

The study was conducted by Professor Chérie Armour and researchers from the Stress, Trauma And Research Conditions (STARC) research laboratory at Queen’s University.

They conducted a month-long online research study to determine how many people were experiencing anxiety, depression and post-trauma symptoms and if particular groups were more at risk for mental ill health than others.

The survey found that the most at risk groups for mental ill health during the first month of lockdown included those with pre-existing mental health conditions, key workers, those who consume a high volume of Covid-19 related information via the media, younger people, and those who are highly concerned about infection.

“The rates of self-reported anxiety, depression and Covid-19 related symptoms during the first month of lockdown are quite striking within our Northern Ireland specific data,” said Professor Armour.

“They are comparable yet slightly higher than the rates reported in UK studies; mostly collecting data from England, ” she added.

“This is understandable since Northern Ireland has previously reported a 25 per cent higher prevalence of mental ill health compared to England and our results have shown those with pre-existing mental health conditions are most at risk,” said Professor Armour.

She added that “given the pressure on keyworkers during these uncertain times we expected to find that being a keyworker would increase the risk for mental health outcomes and the data supports this”.

Professor Armour said more funding should be provided to cater for the “potential influx of individuals needing mental health support”.

The survey also found that almost three-quarters (72 per cent) stated that they were highly concerned about the ability of the health service to care for coronavirus patients if the situation was to worsen.

Approximately half of respondents (49 per cent) said they were highly concerned about the British government’s ability to manage the situation while 50 per cent were highly concerned about the financial implications of the outbreak; particularly those who reported a self-perceived lower than average income.