Covid-19: expert recommendations to reduce the negative psychological effects of confinement
Early work on the psychosocial impact of Covid-19 in China reveals that the epidemic has not only left an impact on the body, but also on the mind, in particular due to containment measures.

covid-19: expert recommendations to reduce the negative psychological effects of confinement © iStock
On March 6, the results of a national survey into the psychological distress of the Chinese population following the Covid-19 epidemic were published in the specialized journal General Psychiatry.

Eight days later, the prestigious medical journal The Lancet, in turn, published a literature review on the psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it.
While the President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron announced Monday evening a tightening of measures to limit the impact of the Covid-19 and that the Minister of the Interior Christophe Castaner confirmed the establishment of a device inspired by the 'Spain or Italy, these studies provide us with key elements to better understand the deleterious effects of this type of provision, and to establish the measures to be taken to circumscribe them.

Here's what to remember.

Recommendations from Chinese data
The Chinese survey on the degree of psychological distress, conducted among the general population in 36 provinces, autonomous regions or municipalities, collected 52,730 responses. These were obtained through an online questionnaire, exploring with validated tools the frequency of anxiety, depression, avoidance behaviors and physical symptoms in the past week.

The authors show for 35% of the respondents (35.27% of men and 64.73% of women) the result obtained reveals moderate psychological stress, and for 5.14%, severe stress. The analysis also indicates that women have a higher degree of psychological distress than men. We also learn that this distress affects more individuals between the ages of 18 and 30 or those over 60. Finally, migrant workers are the most exposed group, while the psychological distress score is, unsurprisingly, the highest in the epicenters of the epidemic.

As a result, the study authors suggest the following recommendations:

pay attention to the specific needs of vulnerable groups such as young people between the ages of 18 and 30, the elderly and migrant workers;
set up support and accompaniment services such as those set up in situations of major disasters;
deploy targeted interventions to reduce psychological stress and prevent future mental health problems.
Identify stressors during and after confinement
The editors of the Lancet review looked at the psychological impact of confinement and the measures to be implemented to reduce its negative effects. The brief was drawn from 3,166 articles published and appraised by scientific committees. 24 studies with scientific solidity were selected. They affect 10 countries and mainly include the SARS (11), Ebola (5) and influenza A (H1N1) (3) viruses.

The documented analysis of the results of these studies indicates that the duration of confinement itself is a stressor: a duration greater than 10 days is predictive of post-traumatic symptoms, avoidance behavior and anger. The authors also identified the following stressors during the confinement period:

physical symptoms: they increase fear of infection and worry (including several months after the episode);
the fear, for pregnant women, both of being infected and of transmitting the virus to their future child;
fear of mothers with young children of being infected or transmitting the virus;
boredom, frustration and a sense of isolation caused by confinement and reduced physical and social contact;
gaps in the distribution of basic necessities;
the inadequacy of the information provided by public health authorities concerning good practices, and the confusion over the purpose of containment;
lack of clarity on risk levels;
the lack of transparency on the severity of the pandemic;
the lack of clear protocols and guidelines.
The stress doesn't stop after the confinement ends. Indeed, these studies also make it possible to list a certain number of stressors which continue to do their work once the situation has returned to “normal”:


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