Effects of COVID-19 related stress on mental well-being

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) as well as related concerns and excessive social media use have an adverse impact on mental health.

A new study examines the effects of COVID-19-related concerns, social adversity and excessive media consumption on schizotypal characteristics such as anxiety, depression, and stress by conducting online surveys with people from Germany and the United Kingdom (UK).

Study: The relationship of COVID-19-related stress and media consumption to depression, schizotypy and anxiety. Image Credit: Ahmet Misirligul/Shutterstock

A preprint version of the study is available on the MedRxiv* server, while the article undergoes peer review.

COVID-19 stress from pandemics

Pandemic stressors can include fears of being infected by the serious acute respir syndrome coronavirus 2(SARS-CoV-2), but it is not the only one. Mental health can be affected by social constraints, financial preoccupations and work-related stress.

Several studies have demonstrated that severe social distancing measures have impacted the mental health of people all over the world. In Germany and the UK, several studies have found higher levels of mental distress and stress and anxiety, fear and depression among the population.

There is an additional danger of unhealthy behavior, like drinking excessively or using drugs, for coping with the stress. Some studies have shown an increase in alcohol sales while others report a decrease in alcohol consumption during the pandemic.

Another way to cope is excessive media consumption. While media is a source of information about the pandemicas well as recent developments, and protective measures, it can also be an important source of misinformation and rumors. This can increase stress levels. The world health organization (WHO) has begun using the term ” infodemic‘ in the context of the current pandemic to mean:

A tsunami of misinformation, hate and fear-mongering has been unleashed.”

Numerous studies have demonstrated that media consumption of more than three hours per day is linked to low mental well-being.

Schizotypal characteristics and social challenges

Schizotypy is a term used to describe traits like disorganized thinking and interpersonal problems that may increase vulnerability to schizophrenia. It is a latent multidimensional personality trait, that is present in all in different degrees. The symptoms include paranoia, lack of trust and disorganized thinking that are similar to schizophrenia.

One study shows that people having high schizotypy scores have an increased fear of illness and are more likely to think that they suffer from COVID-19 symptoms. Furthermore, people who have low schizotypy scores use various strategies to deal with the fear of COVID-19. People with high schizotypal tendencies are more likely to be influenced by conspiracy theories and false information in the media. They are also more prone to psychosis due the social distancing or the economic consequences that lockdowns have on their lives.

Social adversity is a term used to describe issues such as violent crime, segregation, exposure to delinquent peers poverty, and poor parenting as risk factors that can cause an antisocial behaviour.

Online surveys

In this study, researchers evaluated schizotypy and depression, anxiety as well as unhealthy and healthy behaviors and a variety of sociodemographic score using online surveys of residents of Germany and the United Kingdom over one year during the COVID-19 pandemic. They collected information over four time frames that included April/May 2020 (781 individuals), September/October 2020 (498 individuals) February/February 2021 (544 individuals), and May 2021 (486 people). Twenty-six people participated in all four surveys.

COVID-19-related health concerns

The study revealed that COVID-19-related life concerns were significantly linked to schizophrenia in both the May 2021 and September 2020 surveys. They were linked to anxiety and depression symptoms in all surveys. Social adversity had a significant impact on the expression of schizotypal traits in all but the April/May 2020 survey. It impacted anxiety and depressive symptoms in all samples. The study revealed that media consumption of more than four hours per day was associated with COVID-19-related health concerns and schizotypal characteristics in the survey conducted in January/February 2021. The excessive consumption of media was also associated with depression-related anxiety symptoms and depression in COVID-19 patients.

Therefore, the uncertainty of the COVID-19 epidemic and social restrictions have a significant influence on mental wellbeing and the manifestation of schizotypal traits. This negative impact is further amplified by the excessive consumption of media. This is especially important for people who have high schizotypal features.

Limitations of the study

Four samples were taken at different times. There is always the chance of unmeasured confounding. The altered associations may not reflect the changes in the effects of the pandemic. The statistical models used in this study are highly complex and do not strictly meet the criteria for model suitability.

Implications of the study

This study shows that in situations of extreme severity, such as an epidemic that is global in scope and calls for isolation and lockdowns, it is necessary to have meaningful relationships and a healthy lifestyle in order to keep mental health in check.

There is a need to take protective measures like social support networks, psychoeducation, media education, and treatment for common mental disorders to help those who are more susceptible to schizophrenia.

*Important notice

medRxiv publishes preliminary scientific reports that are not peer-reviewed and, therefore, should not be regarded as conclusive, guide clinical practice/health-related behavior, or treated as established information.

Journal reference:

Daimer, S., Mihatsch, L., Neufeld, S. A. S., Murray, G. K., & Knolle, F. (2021). The connection between COVID-19-related media and stress with schizotypy, depression and anxiety. medRxiv. doi:

Content Source:

Gemma Wilson

Gemma is a journalism graduate with keen interest in covering business news – specifically startups. She has as a keen eye for technologies and has predicted quite a few successful startups over the last couple of years.

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