Being employed or in your thirties, in the US, during the COVID-19 pandemic, is associated with higher levels of COVID-19 psychological distress and symptoms of anxiety and depression, according to new research led by academics at London South Bank University (LSBU).
This is the first study of its kind to look at how personality traits, health anxiety and COVID-19 psychological distress are linked to anxiety and depression symptoms during the pandemic.
The study, which was carried out at the end of June 2020, found that being pregnant, older, or suffering from disability is also associated with higher levels of health anxiety in addition to COVID-19 psychological distress.
Insights are drawn from research conducted with a sample of 502 adults based in the US with an average age of 39.3 years, ranging from 20 to 77 years old.
Why those in employment may be more affected
Possible explanations for those in employment being one of the worst affected groups, could be:
- a proportion of those employed are likely to continue to physically go to work, leading to a heightened perceived threat of being infected by COVID-19;
- even for those able to continue working from home, the pandemic has presented a significant threat to the workforce. The possibility of losing a job or experiencing adverse financial consequences as a direct result of the pandemic’s impact on businesses and the economy, is proving to be a constant source of insecurity and worry for many US employees.
Professor Marcantonio Spada, Professor of Addictive Behaviours and Mental Health at LSBU and Lead author of this report, said: “This study highlights, for the first time, that being employed or in your thirties, in the US, during the COVID-19 pandemic, is associated with higher levels of psychological distress and symptoms of anxiety and depression.
“The research also identifies a positive link between five key personality traits, COVID-19 psychological distress and symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Why are younger people more anxious?
Professor Spada added: “Further research is needed if we are to understand why younger people appear to be more anxious about the health risks of exposure to COVID-19, even though they are much less likely than older people to suffer fatal illness as a result of contracting the virus. This research will help us to determine how best to intervene at an earlier stage with younger people in future.”
The findings also highlight:
- Individuals exhibiting heightened levels of neuroticism are more likely to be vulnerable to health anxiety, anxiety, and depression symptoms.
- Individuals who are conscientious, agreeable and extroverted are more likely to be protected from both health anxiety and COVID-19 psychological distress. The researchers concluded that during the period of isolation, these personality traits may have facilitated connection with others and the building of community spirit, increasing resilience to psychological distress. The study, entitled: ‘Modelling the contribution of the Big Five personality traits, health anxiety and COVID-19 psychological distress to generalized anxiety and depressive symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic’, has been published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.
The full study ‘Modelling the contribution of the Big Five personality traits, health anxiety and COVID-19 psychological distress to generalized anxiety and depressive symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic’, has been published in the Journal of Affective Disorders. You can access the study here.