The impact of the initial and second national COVID-19 lockdowns on mental health in young people with and without pre-existing depressive symptoms

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BACKGROUND: The evidence on mental health during COVID-19 evolved fast, but still little is known about the long-lasting impact of the sequential lockdowns. We examine changes in young people's mental health from before to during the initial and second more prolonged lockdown, and whether women and those with pre-existing depressive symptoms were disproportionally impacted.

METHODS: Participants reported on mental health indicators in an ongoing 18-year data collection in the Danish National Birth Cohort and in a COVID-19 survey, including 8 data points: 7 in the initial lockdown, and 1 year post. Changes in quality of life (QoL), mental well-being, and loneliness were estimated with random effect linear regressions on longitudinal data (N = 32,985), and linear regressions on repeated cross-sections (N = 28,579).

FINDINGS: Interim deterioration in mental well-being and loneliness was observed during the initial lockdown, and only in those without pre-existing depressive symptoms. During the second lockdown, a modest deterioration was again observed for mental well-being and loneliness. QoL likewise only declined among those without pre-existing symptoms, where women showed a greater decline than men. QoL did not normalise during the initial lockdown and remained at lower levels during the second lockdown. These findings were not replicated in the repeated cross-sections.

INTERPRETATION: Except for an interim decrease in mental health, and only in those without pre-existing depressive symptoms, this study's findings do not suggest a substantial detrimental impact of the lockdowns.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
Pages (from-to)233-242
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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Copyright © 2022 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.. All rights reserved.

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