Eichenberg, Grossfurthner, Kietaibl et al. (2021): Emotional distress in the early stages of the COVID-19 related lockdowns



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.

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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.