Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on depression, anxiety, loneliness, and satisfaction in the German general population: a longitudinal analysis
Cross-sectional studies found high levels of depression and anxiety symptoms, and loneliness during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Reported increases were lower in longitudinal population-based findings. Studies including positive outcomes are rare. This study analyzed changes in mental health symptoms, loneliness, and satisfaction.
Respondents of the German Socio-Economic Panel (N = 6038) were surveyed pre-pandemic (2017/2019) and during the first (June 2020) and second wave (January and February 2021) of the pandemic. Self-report screeners assessed depression and anxiety symptoms, loneliness, life and health satisfaction. Difference scores were analysed using ANCOVAs focusing on time, gender, age groups.
Depression and anxiety symptoms and health satisfaction increased from pre-pandemic to the first wave, but declined in the second pandemic wave. Loneliness increased and life satisfaction decreased during the first and the second wave of the pandemic. Young adults and women reported more distress and loneliness, even after controlling for pre-pandemic scores, education, and income. All effects remained stable when controlling for self-reported previous diagnosis of depression or region of residence.
Increases and decreases in mental health symptoms and health satisfaction showed little variation. Of concern are the strong increases of loneliness and decreased life satisfaction being important targets for interventions. Main risk factors are young age and female gender.