The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health

This project will provide continuous updates on the scientific evidence about mental health, including alcohol and substance abuse and violence in the general population during the COVID-19 pandemic and about how these phenomena are associated with the containment measures put in place worldwide.

  • Background

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    The length and intensity of social isolation and the fear of infection can have important adverse effects on public mental health. While they lower the infection rate, containment measures can also exacerbate mental health problems. Estimating the increase in mental health problems during the pandemic is important in order to leverage the benefits and harms of containment measures and design optimal interventions to prevent the harm of the containment measures. However, the quantity and diversity of the numerous relevant studies may lead to conflicting results and uncertainty for decision-makers.

  • Research aims

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    We aim to identify, evaluate and synthesise evidence from all relevant studies undertaken worldwide in order to estimate the prevalence of mental health problems worldwide during the pandemic and evaluate the association between mental health problems and:

  • the characteristics of the pandemic
  • the extent and intensity of measures to contain the pandemic
  • individual characteristics such as age, gender and comorbidities.
  • The evidence will be updated continuously for two years.

  • Expected results and envisaged products

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    To date, more than 20,000 studies have been published about the impact of the pandemic on public mental health. We will systematically review them using crowdsourcing techniques; volunteer researchers, after some basic training, will access, evaluate and extract the data from the relevant studies. We will then synthesise the results and present them in a web platform. We will first present regularly updated summaries of the prevalence of mental health issues during and before the pandemic by country and population. We will then present the associations between the intensity of the outbreak - for example number of daily cases and the containment measures, such as lockdown and stringency of social distancing rules - and changes in public mental health.

  • Specific contribution to tackle the current pandemic

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    The chances of mounting a successful response to the possible effects of the pandemic on mental health depend on the speed and accuracy of the analysis of the available information. Hence, collecting relevant high-quality data is an immediate priority. The continuous updating of the evidence will enable the Swiss Government or any other decision-maker to deploy a mental health perspective on containment measures and set immediate priorities and long-term strategies.

  • Original title

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    A continuously updated meta-ecological study of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health, alcohol/substance abuse and violence in the general population

  • Website NRP 78 Research

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