BMC Public Health (Dec 2022)

A repeated cross-sectional and longitudinal study of mental health and wellbeing during COVID-19 lockdowns in Victoria, Australia

  • Annemarie Wright,
  • Alysha De Livera,
  • Keun Hee Lee,
  • Carl Higgs,
  • Matthew Nicholson,
  • Lisa Gibbs,
  • Anthony Jorm

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 22, no. 1
pp. 1 – 14


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Abstract Background Population surveys across the world have examined the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health. However, few have simultaneously examined independent cross-sectional data with longitudinal data, each of which have different strengths and weaknesses and facilitate the investigation of distinct research questions. This study aimed to investigate psychological distress and life satisfaction during the first and second lockdowns in the state of Victoria, Australia, and the social factors that may be affected by lockdowns and could affect mental health. Methods The VicHealth Victorian Coronavirus Wellbeing Impact Study included two 20-min opt-in online panel surveys conducted in May and September 2020 in Victoria, each with a sample of 2000 adults aged 18 + . A two-part study design was used: a repeated cross-sectional study of respondents who participated in Survey One and Survey Two, followed by a longitudinal nested cohort study. The primary exposures were social solidarity, social connectedness and staying connected with family and friends. Using logistic regression modelling, we explored the associations between our exposures and primary outcomes of psychological distress and life satisfaction with and without adjustment for covariates, both cross-sectionally and longitudinally. The results from the multivariable models were summarised using adjusted Odds Ratios (aOR), 95% Confidence Intervals (CI). Results Cross-sectional results indicated that the percentage of participants with low life satisfaction was significantly higher in the second survey sample (53%) compared to the first (47%). The percentage of participants with high psychological distress was higher but not significantly different between the two survey samples (14% first survey vs 16% second survey). Longitudinal study results indicated that lower social connectedness was significantly associated with higher psychological distress (aOR:3.3; 95% CI: 1.3–8.4) and lower life satisfaction (aOR:0.2; 95% CI: 0.1–0.4). Younger adults had higher psychological distress compared to older adults (aOR:6.8; 95% CI:1.5–31.1). Unemployment at the time of the first survey was significantly associated with lower life satisfaction at the second survey (aOR:0.5; 95% CI: 0.3–0.9). Conclusion This study supports the findings of other international studies. It also highlights the need to promote increased social connection and maintain it at times of isolation and separation, particularly amongst younger adults.