At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the decision to deploy stay-at-home orders and other restrictions simultaneously sent community members across the nation into panic and medical professionals into a state of worry over public mental health.
But, new research conducted by the University of California, Irvine, has revealed that the first six months of pandemic-related restrictions were not actually linked to declining mental health.
What did increase feelings of loneliness, distress, and traumatic stress was extensive exposure to COVID-19-related news and media, as well as personal experiences with the virus.
These findings came as the result of two nationally representative surveys. The first was completed by over six thousand and five hundred U.S. adults between March 18, 2020, and April 18, 2020.
Then, nearly five thousand and six hundred of the same participants were surveyed a second time six months later, from September 16 to October 16.
The survey participants were asked to report their personal psychological responses to the pandemic, such as symptoms of traumatic stress, distress, and loneliness.
Additionally, those surveyed were asked whether or not they had been infected with the virus and how many hours of COVID-19-related news they consumed on a daily basis.
After collecting this data, the research team was able to compare participants’ responses against a plethora of federal data, including the rate of COVID-19 spread, stay-at-home orders, school closures, and more.
And interestingly, the comparison revealed that U.S. adults did experience increased feelings of loneliness and distress. However, these symptoms were not greatly related to state-level restrictions.