Effects of decreased social contact on increased anxiety and depressive symptoms

anxious

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Sheila Wayszceyk, a second year medical student at the Regional University of Blumenau, Brazil. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


In 2019, an extremely contagious virus appeared in the city of Wuhan, China. Months later, it became one of the largest pandemics in the world, which would stop the world, causing large and small nations to close and adopt social isolation.1

The new world picture has already been compared to wars. However, now the enemy is invisible and spreads quietly among individuals, which ends up being a stressful factor, increasing levels of anxiety in the population.2

With the mandatory and necessary social distance, the feeling of loneliness is also increased, since many professionals, said to be essential, cannot have contact with their families – as well as risk groups, such as the elderly – being away from their loved ones as a protection element. As is known, the reduction of social interactions is a major risk factor for mental illness, especially depression.2

There is a faster flow of information than the dissemination of COVID19 itself. With the greater free time of citizens and the fear instilled in them, they spend more time receiving a flood of information, often false, which increases their anxieties and anguishes, also influencing depressive conditions. It is necessary for people to take care of other tasks in their homes, reducing stressors. 2

It is also necessary that people look for other ways of communication with their families, such as video calls, so that the feeling of complete isolation decreases, in addition to trying to maintain a routine to feel more active, reducing anxiety and triggers for depression.2

In face of this, the population with lower income has more precarious situations of housing, food and physical activities than the people with higher income, which shows that the low income citizens, besides being the most financially affected, are still more vulnerable to be affected by mental disorders such as depression and anxiety associated with this period of seclusion.3

In this current situation, an epidemiological investigation of the population’s mental conditions is necessary, mainly in the middle and low-income populations, because the understanding of mental disorders, such as anxiety and depression, which will increase with social isolation, can make governments and health agencies achieve greater adherence by their citizens when managing the people’s mental health.4

The world will be different after the COVID pandemic19, anyone and everyone will be affected in some way and this will last for months and even years. It is necessary that government officials include in their national public health agendas, the care for the mental health of their population, which will reduce expenses with psychological treatments later and even guarantee better quality of care, greater adherence to treatments and, consequently, a better rate of cure.4

References

  1. Shuja KH, Aqeel M, Jaffar A, Ahmed A. COVID-19 Pandemic and Impending Global Mental Health Implications. Psychiatr Danub. 2020;32(1):32-35. doi:10.24869/psyd.2020.32
  2. Fiorillo A, Gorwood P. The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health and implications for clinical practice. Eur Psychiatry. 2020:1-4. doi:10.1192/j.eurpsy.2020.35
  3. Bezerra A, Silva CEM, Soares FRG, Silva JAM. Fatores associados ao comportamento da população durante o isolamento social na pandemia de COVID-19. Ciência & Saúde Coletiva. http://www.cienciaesaudecoletiva.com.br/artigos/fatores-associados-ao-comportamento-da-populacao-durante-o-isolamento-social-na-pandemia-de-covid19/17551. Published 2020. Accessed April 24, 2020.
  4. Castro-de-Araujo LFS, Machado DB. Impact of COVID-19 on mental health in a Low and Middle-Income Country (LMIC). Ciência & Saúde Coletiva. http://www.cienciaesaudecoletiva.com.br/artigos/impact-of-covid19-on-mental-health-in-a-low-and-middleincome-country-lmic/17557. Published 2020. Accessed April 24, 2020.

About the author

Sheila Wayszceyk, a second year medical student at the Regional University of Blumenau, Brazil, affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA) and a researcher in the field of neuroscience and behavior.

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