Mental Health Consequences of Adversity in Australia: National Bushfires Associated With Increased Depressive Symptoms, While COVID-19 Pandemic Associated With Increased Symptoms of Anxiety
AuthorArjmand, H-A; Seabrook, E; Bakker, D; Rickard, N
Source TitleFrontiers in Psychology
PublisherFRONTIERS MEDIA SA
University of Melbourne Author/sRickard, Nicole
AffiliationMelbourne Graduate School of Education
Document TypeJournal Article
CitationsArjmand, H. -A., Seabrook, E., Bakker, D. & Rickard, N. (2021). Mental Health Consequences of Adversity in Australia: National Bushfires Associated With Increased Depressive Symptoms, While COVID-19 Pandemic Associated With Increased Symptoms of Anxiety. FRONTIERS IN PSYCHOLOGY, 12, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.635158.
Access StatusOpen Access
High quality monitoring of mental health and well-being over an extended period is essential to understand how communities respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and how to best tailor interventions. Multiple community threats may also have cumulative impact on mental health, so examination across several contexts is important. The objective of this study is to report on changes in mental health and well-being in response to the Australian bushfires and COVID-19 pandemic. This study utilized an Experience-Sampling-Method (ESM), using the smartphone-based mood monitoring application, MoodPrism. Participants were prompted once a day to complete a brief survey inquiring about symptoms of depression and anxiety, and several well-being indices, including arousal, emotional valence, self-esteem, motivation, social connectedness, meaning and purpose, and control. Participants were N = 755 Australians (aged 13 years and above) who downloaded and used MoodPrism, between 2018 and 2020. Results showed that anxiety symptoms significantly increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, but not during the bushfires. This may be explained by concurrent feelings of social connectedness maintained during the bushfires but not during the pandemic. In contrast, depressive symptoms increased significantly during the bushfires, which maintained during the pandemic. Most indices of well-being decreased significantly during the bushfires, and further again during the pandemic. Study findings highlight the unique responses to the bushfire and COVID-19 crises, revealing specific areas of resilience and vulnerability. Such information can help inform the development of public health interventions or individual clinical treatment, to improve treatment approaches and preparedness for potential future community disasters.
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