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How Covid-19 affects our mental health?

New longitudinal study analysed the mental health of the Luxembourgish population during first lockdown.

A new Research Luxembourg study found female and younger respondents reported higher rates of severe depression and anxiety symptoms, suggesting higher vulnerability to the pandemic control measures.

The first wave of the COVID-19 outbreak resulted in strict pandemic control measures in Luxembourg and other countries. While these measures expectedly had an impact on the mental health of Luxembourg residents, little data is available on the longitudinal evolution of population mental health measures during lockdown and during the gradual relaxation of the lockdown measures in spring 2020.

The new study conducted by the CON-VINCE consortium explored whether differential effects of COVID-19 restrictions on mental health could be observed by sex and age in a Luxembourgish nationally representative sample during the initial outbreak of COVID-19. The analysis assessed whether there are differences in risk and protective factors longitudinally at two assessment times.

A total of 1,756 respondents aged 18 years and older (50.74% women) reported sociodemographic and socio-economic characteristics, depression, anxiety, stress, and loneliness.

Women more vulnerable to depression

This study examined mental health during the initial COVID-19 containment measures in Luxembourg residents at baseline (one month after the start of the containment measures) and at follow-up (two weeks after baseline, at the start of the relaxation of the containment measures).

Overall, levels of stress, depression and anxiety were higher in women, indicating that the psychological effects of the COVID-19 pandemic may be greater for women. In fact, women were more likely to have part-time jobs, to be homemakers or family caregivers, to work in the health sector and to have lower incomes.

While Luxembourg has taken several steps to bring about equality between men and women, there were still visible gender-related socio-economic differences in the study. For instance, women reported on average a lower income than men. In addition, women reported a higher rate of caring tasks.

Since the first wave of the pandemic, policy measures have been implemented in Luxembourg to buffer the impact of childcare closures, family leave and other measures that could aim to reduce the impact of the pandemic. Other measures could contribute to ensure a more equal use of family leave to increase work-family balance for mothers. A follow-up analysis one year into the pandemic will help to understand whether the existing measures were effective.

Younger groups more likely to present severe depression

In Luxembourg, younger respondents reported more symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety than older respondents. This could be explained by the fact that younger study participants are more vulnerable because they are exposed to a greater uncertainty about their future in terms of careers in a changing world, employment and a possible economic crisis.

Given the impact of the pandemic on social contacts, daily routines, employment and mobility prospects, the higher degrees of depression, anxiety, stress and loneliness reported by young respondents may reflect the suddenly changed conditions and prospects of today’s younger generation.

This study contributes to the investigation of mental health consequences of the pandemic and the pandemic control measures. In particular, it stresses out shifts in care task responsibilities and gender and socio-economic inequalities. It also highlights younger groups’ uncertainty about the future.

Meet the authors

Fabiana Ribeiro Fabiana Ribeiro is a postdoctoral Research Assistant at University of Luxembourg. She completed a Ph.D. in Basic Psychology in 2019, in which she investigated the effects of emotions evoked by music in the mnesic capacity.

At the moment, she works as a postdoctoral research under supervision of Professor Anja Leist, in which she investigates gender inequalities in cognitive ageing and differences in prevalence of memory impairment in Latin America and the Caribbeans, with a focus on temporal changes and prevalence of associated risk factors.

Valerie E. Schröder is a clinical neuropsychologist/research and development specialist, who has worked in different health care institutions in Luxembourg, Germany and Belgium with the aim to diagnose and treat cognitive dysfunctions in patients suffering from neurological disorders (e.g. neurodegenerative diseases, strokes, traumatic brain injury, etc) and to provide psychological support for patients and their caregivers.

She is currently working as a research and development specialist in the Translational Neuroscience group at the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine in the “programme dementia prevention (pdp), a nation-wide integrated care concept coordinated by  Prof. Dr. med. Rejko Krüger.

Rejko Krüger is Professor for Clinical and Experimental Neuroscience at the University of Luxembourg and Director of Transversal Translational Medicine at the Luxembourg Institute of Health. He is coordinating the CON-VINCE study.

Since June 2019, he links between the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH) and the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) to contribute to personalised medicine by implementing translational research programmes involving partners from different fields within a joint scientific strategy. Furthermore, he sees patients with Movement Disorders at the Centre Hospitalier de Luxembourg. Since 2017, the Ministry of Health is supporting Prof. Krüger to lead integrated healthcare concepts for neurodegenerative diseases in Luxembourg: the “Programme Démence Prévention” (an initiative to prevent dementia) and ParkinsonNet Luxembourg (a care network of health care professionals for Parkinson’s disease).

Anja Leist is Associate Professor in Public Health and Ageing and Vice-head of the Institute for Research on Socio-Economic Inequality in the Department of Social Sciences of University of Luxembourg. 

She is an expert on the topics of health inequalities, ageing, and cognitive ageing, with a social epidemiological and life course perspective. She had research stays at the universities of Luxembourg, Zurich/Switzerland, and Rotterdam/Netherlands, and was funded by several national and European funders, among them the European Research Council on the topic of cognitive ageing.

This work was supported by the Fonds National de la Recherche (FNR) and the André Losch Foundation.

Read complete study The evolution and social determinants of mental health during the first wave of the COVID-19 outbreak in Luxembourg

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