Małgorzata Tomczak
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The impact of the measures taken to combat the coronary pandemic is noticeable. The number of infections could be kept under control and only in a few exceptions – for example in Italy –  the health system overloaded. Target achieved. The direct medical target, that is. However, it is known that the negative effects of the lockdown are far-reaching. Not only economically. Especially the contact restrictions sometimes have serious consequences for people’s psyche.

A group of international scientists led by Prof. Dr. Youssef Shiban has been working on exactly this subject in a research project of the PFH Private University Göttingen. The results have shown that the “severe symptom burden” in depression has increased fivefold.

“Current empirical studies show that quarantine measures can be accompanied by psychological abnormalities such as depression and stress reactions”, explains Dr. Youssef Shiban, professor of clinical psychology at PFH. “The measures put in place to contain Covid-19 can, therefore, have a significant impact on psychological well-being, which will most likely continue well beyond the acute crisis.

The burden of symptoms has increased significantly

According to the researchers, an initial evaluation of the data of about 2,000 subjects already indicates a trend. “There’s a five-fold increase in the symptoms of depression.” There were similar changes in, for example, eating disorders.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, we expected an increase in psychological stress as a result of the restraining measures. Now there are indications that that increase could even be more significant”, Shiban emphasizes. “For the classification, we can look at the data on the SARS outbreak in Canada in 2003. In a study by Hawryluck et al (2004), 30 percent of study participants affected by quarantine measures showed symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.”

National and international comparison

As part of their collaboration with the University of Regensburg, the Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences and Carleton University in Canada, the scientists also investigated regional differences. For example, German states were compared with each other and they also looked at the differences between Canada and Norway. The data collected should “form the basis for further quantitative and qualitative research”. This should ultimately result in psychological strategies for dealing with the pandemic.

“The results so far should be interpreted as a trend for the moment. Because this is an ongoing study, Shiban says. “We aim to publish the results as soon as possible. This will allow decision-makers to develop appropriate strategies as quickly as possible.”