covid-19 stress, anxiety and depression?

Ed. Deliris/

In December 2019, a new coronary pneumonia appears in the city of Wuhan (Hubei, China)[1]. In early 2020 the disease (COVID-19) began to spread throughout China. This rapid increase in cases and deaths has caused psychological problems such as stress, anxiety and depression, [2]. This rapid rise in confirmed cases and deaths spread rapidly around the world, making Europe in general and Euskal Herria an important pandemic focus.

Beyond the medical risks, the psychological and social impact of this pandemic is indisputable. According to studies from China (the first affected country), fear and uncertainty about the unknown can lead to mental illnesses such as stress, anxiety, depression, somatization and increased alcohol and tobacco use[3].

A survey of 1210 people in 194 Chinese cities in January 2020 measured depression, anxiety and stress through the DASS-21 scale. The aim of this study was to analyze the psychological impact of the initial stage of the covid-19 outbreak. 16.5% of participants showed depressive, moderate or severe symptoms, 28.8% moderate and severe symptoms of anxiety and 8.1% pointed to moderate and severe levels of stress. In addition, poor personal health was associated with a greater psychological impact. They also concluded that poor psychological health could also influence physical health. In any biological catastrophe, fear, uncertainty and stigmatization are common, so it is also important to carry out appropriate psychological interventions[4].

In short, in an international public health emergency like the one we live in, it is important to investigate the psychological impact of the pandemic on certain populations in order to develop strategies to reduce the psychological impact of the crisis[5]. Therefore, this study measured the levels of stress, anxiety and depression in a sample of the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country, in order to analyze the psychological needs of the population at the time of the beginning of the crisis.

Research carried out in the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country

This study involved 976 people from the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country. Stress, anxiety and depression levels were measured, along with items related to the sociodemographic variables of the participants.

Regarding the results, the levels of stress, anxiety and depression of the sample collected in the ACBC were lower than those recorded in the study conducted in China. This data is noteworthy, considering that the questionnaire was carried out in the initial phase of the presentation of covid-19. This could explain, on the one hand, that the CAPV had more information about the virus, since it came a month and a half after China, and that knowledge of the pandemic could explain that the levels of stress, anxiety and depression were lower. On the other hand, it is also possible that at the time of the collection of the sample, in the first days of the epidemic in Spain, the population still does not see the extent of the pandemic in its own territory, since the epidemic continues to be associated with a remote problem that affects others [6,7].

On the other hand, it is worth mentioning that in this sample, greater averages have been found in the three levels of symptoms (stress, anxiety and depression) from March 14, that is, from the beginning of the closure. For this reason, the population may still lack time to accept and process the crisis they face. In addition, these levels are expected to increase as the time of confinement and isolation increases, so it would be interesting to progressively analyze the process of this evolution[8].

In addition, the results show that, as expected, people with chronic diseases show a higher average in anxiety, stress and depression compared to participants who did not mention any chronic disease. These results agree that people with severe or multiple diseases have higher levels of psychological symptoms in the face of this crisis [9].

In the results of this study, and contrary to expectations, higher means have been found in stress, anxiety and depression among people 18 to 25 years old than between those 26 to 60 years old, and finally, the average in the three dimensions is lower among those over 60 years old. It is noteworthy that older people have a lower symptomatology in these dimensions. This can have many explanations. First, the anxiety experienced by young people from their role as students; let us remember that classes were suspended before the closure was established, which can generate a greater awareness of crisis in students. On the other hand, in this crisis the media bombardment received from social networks has been especially reviewed, especially in the first days the proliferation of faces news. It is possible that, being the most active young people on social networks, this bombing has worsened their psychological situation. All these variables would be new lines of research.


Faced with this new situation, as Liu et al. [24], early strategies are necessary for the prevention and treatment of psychological consequences that may result from a pandemic such as COVID-19. In this sense, institutions with a socio-health, administrative and educational profile, such as academia, could design stress support plans and programs, as was done in Beijing. In fact, the University of Beijing developed a manual on mental health, with the aim of reporting on stress and other psychological problems arising from the appearance of COVID-19 [25]. In addition, numerous psychiatric hospitals, psychological counseling centers and university psychology departments launched specialized telephone lines for the provision of psychological counseling services[10].

The authors of this article are professors and researchers from the departments of Evolution and Psychology of Education, Didactics and School Organization and Methods of Research and Diagnosis in Education of the Faculty of Education of the UPV/EHU.



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8th. Brooks SK, Webster RK, Smith LE, et al. Reducing the impact of the psychological: Rapid review of evidence. The Lancet. 2020.

9. Dong XC, Li JM, Bai JY, et al. Epidemiological characteristics of confirmed COVID-19 cases in tianjin. Zhonghua Liu Xing Bing Xue Za Zhi. 2020;41(5):638-642: 10.3760/cma.c.cn112338-20200221-00146 [adjustment].

10. Bao Y, Sun Y, Meng S, Shi J, Lu L. 2019-nCoV epidemic: Address mental health care to empower society. The Lancet. 2020;395(10224):37-38.

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