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People who complied with COVID restrictions now have worse mental health, research finds

A man walks over Westminster Bridge as the sun sets in London, January 6, 2021
A man walks over Westminster Bridge as the sun sets in London, January 6, 2021 Copyright AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth
Copyright AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth
By Euronews
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Certain personality types were more likely to comply with restrictions during the COVID pandemic than others, a new study in Wales has found.

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People who complied more strictly with COVID-19 restrictions have worse mental health today, according to a new study.

Researchers analysed the behaviour of around 1,700 people in Wales during lockdown based on their personalities and mental health post-pandemic.

They found that people who reported complying with COVID-19 restrictions were the least likely to resume normal activities.

They were also more likely to experience stress, anxiety, and depression today.

Participants were asked to answer questions about their attitudes to COVID-19 and actions during the first part of the pandemic from March to September 2020. 

This period included many public health restrictions on movement and social gatherings.

Researchers also questioned 230 friends or family of those involved in the study to cross-check participants’ answers.

They followed up with 850 participants and asked them to report their levels of stress and mental health every two weeks between February and May 2023.

Dr Marley Willegers, from Bangor University’s Institute for the Psychology of Elite Performance (IPEP), said that while there were public health messages as people went into lockdown, "there was no messaging campaign as we came out of the pandemic to help everyone safely transition back to normality".

"Without this, certain personality types have retained infection prevention behaviour and anxiety that undermines their mental well-being," Willegers said in a statement.

COVID restrictions' impact on mental health

The researchers separated people into two personality types: agentic personalities which are focused on what affects them and communal personalities which are focused more on others.

Agentic personalities were less likely to follow COVID-19 restrictions unless they personally felt at risk of infection.

Willegers argues that both personality types should be taken into account for government messaging campaigns.

The pandemic impacted mental health in several different ways, according to the 2022 World Mental Health Report.

This includes fear in the early months about infection, witnessing suffering and death as well as the reduction of social connections due to pandemic restrictions.

A global recession amid the pandemic also left many people without employment, with a slow recovery, the report highlighted.

Researchers had estimated that there would be a 25 to 27 per cent rise in the prevalence of depression and anxiety in the first year of the pandemic.

Earlier this year, a review of 177 studies in 20 European countries found that the pandemic had a large impact on mental health in Europe, but that it was not as substantial as some had predicted.

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