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Evaluating the mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic: Perceived risk of COVID-19 infection and childhood trauma predict adult depressive symptoms in urban South Africa

Kim, A.W.
Nyengerai, T.
Mendenhall, E.
Abstract
Background: South Africa's national lockdown introduced serious threats to public mental health in a society where one in three individuals develops a psychiatric disorder during their life. We aimed to evaluate the mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic using a mixed-methods design. Methods: This longitudinal study drew from a preexisting sample of 957 adults living in Soweto, a major township near Johannesburg. Psychological assessments were administered across two waves between August 2019 and March 2020 and during the first 6 weeks of the lockdown (late March-early May 2020). Interviews on COVID-19 experiences were administered in the second wave. Multiple regression models examined relationships between perceived COVID-19 risk and depression. Results: Full data on perceived COVID-19 risk, depression, and covariates were available in 221 adults. In total, 14.5% of adults were at risk for depression. Higher perceived COVID-19 risk predicted greater depressive symptoms (p < 0.001), particularly among adults with histories of childhood trauma, though this effect was marginally significant (p = 0.063). Adults were about two times more likely to experience significant depressive symptoms for every one unit increase in perceived COVID-19 risk (p = 0.021; 95% CI 1.10-3.39). Qualitative data identified potent experiences of anxiety, financial insecurity, fear of infection, and rumination. Conclusions: Higher perceived risk of COVID-19 infection is associated with greater depressive symptoms during the first 6 weeks of quarantine. High rates of severe mental illness and low availability of mental healthcare amidst COVID-19 emphasize the need for immediate and accessible psychological resources.
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Date
2020-09-08
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Publisher
Cambridge
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Keywords
COVID-19 , South Africa , Childhood trauma , Depression , Risk perception
Citation
Kim AW, Nyengerai T & Mendenhall E. Evaluating the mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic: Perceived risk of COVID-19 infection and childhood trauma predict adult depressive symptoms in urban South Africa. Psychol Med. 2022 Jun;52(8):1587-1599. doi: 10.1017/S0033291720003414.
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