The first wave of the COVID-19-pandemic hit different countries with varying degrees of severity, so that differences in the type and level of emergency measures were also necessary. It can be assumed that the psychological burden was higher in countries subjected to a more severe course of the pandemic (Italy) than in countries subjected to a less severe one (Germany, Austria).
To investigate and contrast the wellbeing of the population in Italy, Austria, and Germany in the early phase of the first lockdown.
Online survey on N = 4289 individuals. The questionnaire comprised a self-administered section, exploring the dimensions: perceived severity of COVID-19, perceived risk of disease, concerns related to COVID-19, emergency measure acceptance and emotional distress due to emergency measures; and standardized scales to record emotional state and coping: Stress-Coping-Style Questionnaire, Positive and Negative Affect Schedule, State-Trait-Anxiety-Inventory.
The three countries displayed significant differences in all investigated dimensions (p < .001). Italian participants assessed the COVID-19 virus as much more dangerous (p < .001), but despite the prevalence of the virus, the subjective risk of disease was perceived to be lower in Italy (p < .001). This could be a positive effect of the restrictive curfews set by the government in Italy. The emergency measures were generally perceived to be very effective in all three countries, but due to the duration and the severity of the measures, the fear and stress-reaction were the strongest among Italian participants (p < .001).
The stricter measures in Italy prevented an application of many positive stress processing strategies, which, in turn, fostered the perpetuation of stresses and fear.
Eichenberg, C., Grossfurther, M., Kietaibl, S., Riboli, G., Borlimi, R. & Holocher-Benetka, S. (2021). Emotional distress in the early stages of the COVID-19 related lockdowns depending on the severity of the pandemic and emergency measures: a comparative online-survey in Germany, Austria and Italy. BMC Psychiatry, 21, 509 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-021–03505-7.