There are indications that the mental well-being of people during the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic fluctuates somewhat in accordance with the incidence of COVID-19 cases. These are the preliminary results of COVIDMENT, a research project reaching almost 400 thousand individuals in six countries and is led by research scientists at the Centre of Public Health Sciences at the University of Iceland. The results are featured in the latest edition of the International Journal of Epidemiology published this week.
Research scientists from universities and institutes in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Estonia, and Scotland are involved in the COVIDMENT-research project in addition to the Icelandic ones; but Unnur Anna Valdimarsdóttir, professor of epidemiology at the University of Iceland, leads the project. The overarching aim is to significantly advance current knowledge on mental morbidity trajectories associated with COVID-19 in the general population and specific risk groups. This large-scale collaborative project between the Nordic countries and Estonia has been awarded roughly ISK 200 million in funding by NordForsk; an organisation under the Nordic Council of Ministers that provides funding for and facilitates Nordic cooperation on research and research infrastructure.
The research is based on extensive public surveys and biobanks, or a total of seven cohort studies in the six countries. This includes the extensive COVID-19 National Resilience Cohort (Líðan þjóðar á tímum COVID-19), a scientific study originally launched by scientists at the Centre of Public Health Sciences at the beginning of the pandemic in Iceland.
From March 2020 to August 2021 a total of 400 thousand individuals have participated in the seven cohort studies and the data from them, along with health databases in each country will be used to increase knowledge of the long-term impact of COVID-19 on population mental health.
The preliminary results from the research team were published in the International Journal of Epidemiology last weekend. They show that the prevalence of depressive symptoms varied considerably across cohorts in the seven countries; but proved highest among young people and women. The prevalence of depressive symptoms was highest at COVID-19 incidence of 30 cases per week per 100,000 persons, or 61.0% higher than the prevalence at COVID-19 incidence of 0 cases per week. The results show that population mental health was to some extent in sync with the incidence of COVID-19 cases.
The research team is currently working on a number of important projects, such as the possible long-term effect of the pandemic on mental health; the cognitive impact of COVID-19; the effects on the mental health of healthcare workers; the mental health of immediate family members of COVID-19 patients, and those who have experienced loss of income due the the pandemic; the impact of mandatory restrictions on gatherings; and the attitudes towards COVID-19 vaccinations. "The results are important as they add to the knowledge of the long-term effect of COVID-19 on the mental health among the general public and how they can be used in response to possible future pandemics," says Anna Bára Unnarsdóttir, project manager and doctoral student at the University of Iceland's Centre of Public Health Sciences and first author of the article.