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August 21, 2020

CHOP researchers see sense of altruism in people's COVID-19 worries

Study examines effects of resiliency on mental health

Mental Health Anxiety
COVID-19 worries.jpg Bastiaan Slabbers/For PhillyVoice

People tend to worry more about their family members getting COVID-19 than themselves, Penn Medicine and CHOP researchers found.

The severe illnesses and economic hardships brought by the COVID-19 pandemic have left many people with an array of worries. 

But people tend to worry less about their own health than that of their family members, according to a study conducted by researchers at Penn Medicine and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

In a survey of 3,042 people from the United States and Israel, 48.5% said they were distressed about family members potentially contracting the coronavirus. Thirty-six percent worried that they would unknowingly infect someone else. Only 19.9% were distressed about becoming infected themselves. 

The survey, which also measured the resiliency of participants, found that 22.2% of people were suffering from anxiety and 16.1% from depression. 

But respondents with higher resiliency scores had fewer COVID-19-related worries and reduced rates of anxiety and depression. 

"Based on our study, it appears that people are more worried about others than themselves and when reporting their COVID-19-related concerns, but encouragingly, resilience helps reduce these worries, as well as anxiety and depression," said Dr. Raquel Gur, director of CHOP's Lifespan Brain Institute. 

"As we get a better grasp of what constitutes resilience in people during COVID-19, we hope that soon we will be able to inform interventions that can enhance resilience, thereby mitigating the adverse effects of COVID-19 on mental health." 

The survey also provided participants with a resilience profile that included personalized recommendations for dealing with depression and managing stress and anxiety. The survey can still be taken here.

  • Therapists and counselors are also available for people in distress. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has established a COVID-19 related hotline called the Disaster Distress Helpline. Call (800) 985-5990.
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 by calling (800) 273-8255. 
  • Philadelphia has a 24-hour Suicide Prevention and Crisis Intervention Service available at (215) 686-4420.

The study is the latest in a litany of research that has found increased rates of anxiety and depression amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Earlier this week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study that found 30.9% of American adults had an anxiety or depressive disorder related to the pandemic. About 13% had begun – or increased – substance use to cope with stress. Those figures were even higher among young adults

In April, a Jefferson Health survey found that coronavirus fears were approaching clinical levels in 40% of respondents. 

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