US Pharm. 2020;45(5):1.

A study released in early April provides initial evidence that the COVID-19 outbreak affects people mentally as well as physically. The preliminary results reveal that adults in locations more affected by COVID-19 had distress, lower physical and mental health, and less life satisfaction.

Researchers from the University of Adelaide, Tongji University, and the University of Sydney surveyed 369 adults living in 64 cities in China after they had lived under 1 month of confinement measures in February. Led by Dr. Stephen Zhang from the University of Adelaide, the study identified adults with existing health conditions and those who stopped working as most at risk for worse mental and physical health.

“As many parts of the world are only just beginning to go into lockdown, we examined the impact of the 1-month-long lockdown on people’s health, distress, and life satisfaction,” said Dr. Zhang. “The study offers somewhat of a ‘crystal ball’ into the mental health of Australian residents once they have been in the lockdown for one month."

More than a quarter of the clinical study participants worked at the office during the lockdown period, while 38% worked from home and 25% stopped work due to the outbreak. Published in Psychiatry Research, the study suggests that adults living in areas more affected by the COVID-19 pandemic reported negative life satisfaction only among those with chronic medical issues, but not for those without existing health issues.

Coauthor on the study, Professor Andreas Rauch from the University of Sydney related, “We weren’t surprised that adults who stopped working reported worse mental and physical health conditions as well as distress. Work can provide people with a sense of purpose and routine, which is particularly important during this global pandemic.”

Study participants who exercised for more than 2.5 hours per day reported worse life satisfaction in more affected locations while those who exercised for half an hour or less during the lockdown reported positive life satisfaction.

“We were really surprised by the findings around exercising hours because it appears to be counterintuitive,” said Dr. Zhang. “It’s possible adults who exercised less could better justify or rationalize their inactive lifestyles in more severely affected cities. More research is needed, but these early findings suggest we need to pay attention to more physically active individuals, who might be more frustrated by the restrictions.”

For recent research into the physical ramifications of the pandemic, including the impact of COVID-19 on blood clots, nursing home preparedness, smell and taste loss, and the likely cells targeted by the virus, see page 31.