Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam studies possible Mental Health effects of the Coronavirus

14 countries will participate.

05/15/2020 | 10:50 AM

The Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU) starts the “COVID Mental Health Survey” with the main objective to evaluate whether the course of mental health symptoms during the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is predicted by demographic variables (age, gender, education level, profession, degree of economic losses) social isolation, level of exposure to the outbreak, pre-existing mental health problems, contamination fear, cultural value orientations and coping strategies. VU associate professor Marit Sijbrandij and psychiatrist and PhD student Martina Patanè from the VU department of Clinical Psychology will examine mental health symptoms at four waves. From: Wave 1 (April/May 2020), Wave 2 (3 months), Wave 3 (6months), and Wave 4 (9 months).

Effects Mental Health are unknown
For a peacetime society, a virus epidemic is considered to be one of the most difficult and stressful events to manage in terms of public health. The recent pandemic has been forcing millions of people to change their usual life, to work from home, and to practice physical and social distancing. Many people face uncertainty regarding their financial situation, and the risk of being contaminated. It is yet unknown what the mental health effects of the Coronavirus outbreak are.

Rules can generate symptoms
As reported in several studies conducted during the most recent past virus epidemic (SARS and Ebola), the obligation to keep a safe distance between people and the state of emergency could generate psychosocial consequence as depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), insomnia, and distress in affected individuals. VU associate professor Marit Sijbrandij: “However, it is yet unclear which variables predict negative mental health outcomes. To our knowledge, no studies have yet been conducted examining predictors for adverse mental health responses during a more protracted crisis such as the current crisis in the absence of war or terrorist attacks.”

Online survey
The online survey will be performed across fourteen countries affected by the Corona virus outbreak. It will not be possible to draw a random population sample. Instead the researchers will perform an internet survey and aim for a large sample size. VU psychiatrist and PhD student Martina Patanè: “Participants will be invited to take a series of self-report questionnaires available in different languages (Dutch, English, German, Italian, French, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish, Cantonese, or Bahasa Indonesia). The outcome of our study will be to evaluate whether the course of mental health symptoms during the current COVID-19 outbreak is predicted by demographic characteristics, degree of loss, contamination fear, cultural values and coping strategies.”

The study is already approved by the Scientific and Ethical Review Board (VCWE) of the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam – The Netherlands (VCWE-2020-077). The survey can be found here.