Home Alone: Implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health

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Rationale:The outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has induced a considerable degree of fear, emotional stress and anxiety among individuals around the world.

Objective: The objective of this study is to evaluate the relationship between COVID-19 virus cases per 1000 residents and mental health outcomes of individuals across the globe.

Methods: Using plausibly exogenous variation in daily country-level reports of new COVID-19 cases across the world, this study employs an individual-by-day global data set to assess the association between virus outbreak intensity and short-term measures of mental health outcomes.

Results: Results indicate that females are 20.02% (95 % CI [6.65 %, 33.39 %]) more likely than males to find life depressing, suggesting that they may bear a much larger mental health burden than males during the COVID-19 pandemic. The association between the pandemic and mental health is more pronounced among individuals staying at home for the past week, who are 14.81 % (95 % CI [3.46 %, 26.16 %]) more likely to feel anxious and 11.17 % (95 % CI [2.13 %, 20.21 %]) more likely to experience emotional instability than their counterparts. The association between virus outbreak intensity and the likelihood of anxiety among individuals staying at home increases with household size, ranging from 11.73 % (95 % CI [-4.65 %, 28.11 %]) among individuals with 0–1 members in the household to 21.02 % (95 % CI [5.73 %, 36.31 %]) among those with 4–8 members in the household.

Conclusion: These short-run estimates of mental health damages associated with COVID-19 imply that welfare losses from pandemics among individuals are enormous across the globe.