People who have had a mental health disorder, suffered more from the COVID-19 pandemic compared to people without a mental health disorder. They reported more symptoms like depression, anxiety and loneliness. However, the severity of the symptoms did not increase compared to the period before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Amsterdam UMC investigated the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of people with an existing mental health disorder in three psychiatry case-control cohorts. APH researchers Kuan-Yu Pan (research associate at Amsterdam UMC) and Brenda Penninx (professor of Psychiatric Epidemiology at Amsterdam UMC) were part of the research team. They included 1,500 participants of three APH cohort studies (NESDA, NESDO and NOCDA). The participants were asked to report changes in depressive symptoms, anxiety, worry, loneliness and coping.

People with pre-existing mental health disorders, experienced a larger impact of the corona pandemic on their mental health. They reported more fear of an infection and poorer ability to cope with this stressful event. On average the researchers did not find a change in the severity of depression, anxiety or loneliness symptoms of people with a mental health disorder, when they compared symptoms before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. The symptoms of people with severe mental health disorders even seemed to decline.

Kuan-Yu Pan: “We will continue with our research, since we would like to understand why the COVID-19 pandemic affects one person more than the other. We also want to know the long term mental health effects of the corona crisis. Unfortunately, the pandemic is still ongoing, and the impact on mental health is now getting clearer.”

The research is published in The Lancet Psychiatry: The mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people with and without depressive, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorders.