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    Acute and longer-term psychological distress associated with testing positive for COVID-19: longitudinal evidence from a population-based study of US adults

    Daly, Michael and Robinson, Eric (2023) Acute and longer-term psychological distress associated with testing positive for COVID-19: longitudinal evidence from a population-based study of US adults. Psychological Medicine, 53 (4). pp. 1603-1610. ISSN 0033-2917

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    Background. The novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) has produced a considerable public health burden but the impact that contracting the disease has on mental health is unclear. In this observational population-based cohort study, we examined longitudinal changes in psychological distress associated with testing positive for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Methods. Participants (N = 8002; observations = 139 035) were drawn from 23 waves of the Understanding America Study, a nationally representative probability-based online panel of American adults followed-up every 2 weeks from 1 April 2020 to 15 February 2021. Psychological distress was assessed using the standardized total score on the Patient Health Questionnaire-4. Results. Over the course of the study, 576 participants reported testing positive for COVID-19. Using regression analysis including individual and time-fixed effects we found that psychological distress increased by 0.29 standard deviations ( p < 0.001) during the 2-week period when participants first tested positive for COVID-19. Distress levels remained significantly elevated (d = 0.16, p < 0.01) for a further 2 weeks, before returning to baseline levels. Coronavirus symptom severity explained changes in distress attributable to COVID-19, whereby distress was more pronounced among those whose symptoms were more severe and were slower to subside. Conclusions. This study indicates that testing positive for COVID-19 is associated with an initial increase in psychological distress that diminishes quickly as symptoms subside. Although COVID-19 may not produce lasting psychological distress among the majority of the general population it remains possible that a minority may suffer longer-term mental health consequences.

    Item Type: Article
    Keywords: COVID-19; coronavirus infection; mental health; psychological distress; longitudinal research; nationally representative study;
    Academic Unit: Assisting Living & Learning,ALL institute
    Faculty of Science and Engineering > Psychology
    Item ID: 18262
    Identification Number:
    Depositing User: Michael Daly
    Date Deposited: 07 Mar 2024 15:22
    Journal or Publication Title: Psychological Medicine
    Publisher: Cambridge University Press
    Refereed: Yes
    Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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