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An exploration of the impact of COVID-19 on mental health in South Africa

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, South Africa implemented a strict stay-at-home order. The mental health effects of the pandemic and related containment measures are minimally documented in this region. This study examines the association between COVID-19 related stressors and mental health during a strict stay-at-home order in South Africa. A total of 860 self-selected participants residing in the Western Cape province completed an online survey from 20-31 May 2020. This sample consisted mainly of higher socioeconomic and higher educated segments of the population. Structural equation modelling was used to assess how sociodemographic factors, membership of vulnerable groups and COVID-19 related stressors were associated with PHQ-9 (depression) and GAD-7 (anxiety) scores. 46.0% and 47.2% of participants met the diagnostic threshold of anxiety and depressive disorder, respectively. Considerable daily life repercussions were linked to these scores. Among these participants, less than 20% consulted a formal practitioner and this was 12% for participants without a pre-existing mental health condition. Distress related to containment measures and distress about being infected were significantly associated with more anxiety and depressive symptoms. Having a pre-existing mental health condition was associated with poorer mental health, but being an active health worker was not. Younger age, being female, and living in a non-rural area were associated with poorer mental health. Our findings suggest a considerable mental health impact of this pandemic and related containment measures, but low attendance of mental health services. The accessibility to tailored mental health support is essential under these circumstances, especially for vulnerable groups.
Journal: Psychology, Health & Medicine
ISSN: 1354-8506
Volume: 99
Number of pages: 11
Publication year:2021
Keywords:A1 Journal article, Paramedicine