Judit Simon, Timea M. Helter, Ross G. White, Catharina van der Boor & Agata Łaszewska
Impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and its public health measures go beyond physical and mental health and incorporate wider well-being impacts in terms of what people are free to do or be. We explored the impacts of the Covid-19 lockdown and relevant vulnerabilities on capability well-being, mental health and social support in Austria.
Adult Austrian residents (n = 560) provided responses to a cross-sectional online survey about their experiences during Covid-19 lockdown (15 March-15 April 2020). Instruments measuring capabilities (OxCAP-MH), depression and anxiety (HADS), social support (MSPSS) and mental well-being (WHO-5) were used in association with six pre-defined vulnerabilities using multivariable linear regression.
31% of the participants reported low mental well-being and only 30% of those with a history of mental health treatment received treatment during lockdown. Past mental health treatment had a significant negative effect across all outcome measures with an associated capability well-being score reduction of − 6.54 (95%CI, − 9.26, − 3.82). Direct Covid-19 experience and being ‘at risk’ due to age and/or physical health conditions were also associated with significant capability deprivations. When adjusted for vulnerabilities, significant capability reductions were observed in association with increased levels of depression (− 1.77) and anxiety (− 1.50), and significantly higher capability levels (+ 3.75) were associated with higher levels of social support. Compared to the cohort average, individual capability impacts varied between − 9% for those reporting past mental health treatment and + 5% for those reporting one score higher on the social support scale.
Our study is the first to assess the capability limiting aspects of lockdown and relevant vulnerabilities alongside their impacts on mental health and social support. The negative capability well-being, mental health and social support impacts of the Covid-19 lockdown were strongest for people with a history of mental health treatment. Future public health policies concerning lockdowns should pay special attention to improve social support levels in order to increase public resilience.