COVID-19 Pandemic Social Distancing Policies, Social Connection and Mental Health

  • Kharah Ross (Creator)
  • Cheryl M. Trask ((Athabasca University) (Creator)
  • C. T. Lowe ((University of Calgary) (Creator)
  • J. Keown-Gerrard ((Athabasca University) (Creator)
  • T. H. Gilbert ((Athabasca University) (Creator)
  • Cheuk Fan Ng (Creator)
  • Kharah Ross ((University of Calgary Athabasca University) (Contributor)



COVID-19 is a highly contagious and novel virus that has prompted government officials to implement restrictive public health orders. It is hypothesized that pandemic-related restrictions may have a detrimental impact on mental health. Longitudinal data were collected through 13 assessments, repeated every two weeks for the initial six months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants were recruited through Athabasca University and social media . The final sample consisted of 280 adults from across Canada , with the majority of participants residing in Alberta (63%) and Ontario (20%) . Sociodemographic characteristics, COVID-19 related risk factors, pre-pandemic and pandemic physical activity, and COVID-19 related risk factors were collected at study entry, and mental health (depressive symptoms, anxiety, and loneliness) were collected at each assessment. Multi-level modelling was used to identify mental health trajectories during the initial six months of the pandemic. Mental health symptoms tracked with rising cases of infection and subsequent public health restrictions during the pandemic. Specifically, anxiety and depressive symptoms demonstrated strong longitudinal quadratic trends. Both anxiety and depressive symptoms were high at study entry (May 2020) and decreased over the summer, followed by an increase in the fall and winter months. Loneliness was stable over the follow-up period. Age, sex, living alone, socioeconomic factors, and pre-existing mental health conditions correlated with mental health symptoms during the pandemics initial six months. This study characterizes within-person changes to mental health (anxiety, depressive symptoms, and loneliness) in a Canadian sample from May 2020 to January 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Date made available2024

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