Researchers from Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and England* have released the first wave of the Irish COVID-19 Psychological Survey; a multi-wave study running throughout the COVID-19 outbreak to better understand how people are responding, understanding and coping with the pandemic.
Over 1,000 adult citizens of the Republic of Ireland completed the survey, which was launched on 31 March; 31 days after the first confirmed case of COVID-19 was reported in the Republic of Ireland. The survey was launched 19 days after An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced sweeping restrictions on the movement of people, and two days after Irish residents were required to stay at home. Participants answered questions about their current circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, their mental health, and their views on COVID-19 vaccination.
Initial results suggest that mental health problems are common; 41% of people reported feeling lonely, 23% reported clinically meaningful levels of depression, 20% reported clinically meaningful levels of anxiety, and 18% reported clinically meaningful levels of post-traumatic stress.
Dr Philip Hyland of Maynooth University, said of the results: “We’re seeing high rates of mental health problems like depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress, and these problems are affecting men and women differently. Women are experiencing higher levels of depression and anxiety whereas men are experiencing higher rates of post-traumatic stress.”
Dr Hyland added that “nearly half of the people surveyed were feeling lonely and those people with higher levels of loneliness were most likely to experience adverse mental health problems. We also found that younger people, those who have a tendency to think in catastrophic ways, those who fear being infected by COVID-19, and those who have had someone close to them infected by COVID-19 are at a higher risk of mental health problems.”
Dr Frédérique Vallières, Director of Trinity College’s Centre for Global Health further added: “Despite encouraging results in terms of people’s knowledge on COVID-19, we further found that attitudes towards the uptake of a potential COVID-19 vaccine to be worryingly low, with only 65% of people indicating that they would accept a vaccine for themselves and their children. One-in-four people did say however that they might accept a vaccine for themselves and their child, compared to one-in-ten people who said they would not. A better understanding of why people might be hesitant to accept a COVID-19 vaccine, if and when it is developed is required.”
The second wave of the COVID-19 Psychological Survey is scheduled to commence prior to the 5 May. The research team will examine what effect prolonged quarantine and physical distancing measures have on people’s mental health and wellbeing, and what can be done to safeguard the mental health of the nation during this and any future health emergency. The research team seek to understand more about COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy.
Speaking about the importance of the survey, Dr Philip Hyland added: “The social and political context of the present crisis is unique and the mental health consequences of this pandemic need to be properly understood to ensure the nation’s swift return to normal functioning when it is safe to do so.”
The research team are currently preparing multiple scientific papers and will release these findings as soon as possible. The findings of this next wave of the study will be delivered next month.
There are a number of helplines available for anyone who is affected by issues of stress, including those below:
Aware: 1800 80 48 48 firstname.lastname@example.org https://www.aware.ie/
Samaritans: Tel. email@example.com www.samaritans.ie
Shine: firstname.lastname@example.org / 01 5413715 www.shine.ie
www.pieta.ieSpunOut.ie is Ireland's youth information website by young people, for young people. Funded by the HSE. www.SpunOut.ie
www.pieta.ie 1800 247 247. TXT Helpline: 51444 www.pieta.ie
Health Service Executive: The HSE website - www.hse.ie - has updated factual information and advice regarding COVID-19 (coronavirus) HSE.ie. If you develop a fever or any respiratory symptoms contact your GP or HSELive on 1850 241 850.
*Maynooth University and the Centre for Global Health, Trinity College Dublin; Ulster University; Edinburgh Napier University; University of Sheffield