The mental health struggles stemming from the lockdowns of 2020 have been well documented in the years since the onset of COVID. While, for the most part, the world has gotten back to business as usual, a new analysis suggests that some people have not yet completely recovered their mental well-being.
According to new research, which has not been peer reviewed, the more compliant people were with COVID lockdown restrictions in early 2020 the more likely it is that they continue to suffer from anxiety and depression today, more than three years after the initial lockdowns.
Those people also fall into the more empathetic category of personalities studied for the research, scientists added.
For the study, experts at Bangor University, in Wales, divided 1700 people into two types of personalities based on their behavior during and perceptions of the 2020 COVID restrictions. Participants either had an agentic personality — meaning they were more self-serving — or communal personalities, who have more concern for others.
People with communal personalities were more likely to strictly adhere to COVID restrictions. Follow-up mental health assessments that took place every two weeks from February to May 2023 revealed that this group was also more likely to have lower overall wellbeing in comparison to the agentic personalities.
The findings could be, in part, due to a lack of effective messaging related to the safe transition back to normal living, the authors suggest.
“There was naturally a lot of focus on getting public health messages out when Covid first emerged, to change people’s behavior. Similarly, throughout the pandemic, messaging campaigns were designed to ensure people continued to follow the rules,” Marley Willegers, Ph.D., from the Institute for the Psychology of Elite Performance at Bangor, said in a release. “But there was no messaging campaign as we came out of the pandemic to help everyone safely transition back to normality. Without this, certain personality types have retained infection prevention behavior and anxiety that undermines their mental wellbeing.”
The authors suggest that any government messaging in the future should consider both personality types to increase the likelihood of compliance with health measures.