Psychosocial late sequelae of the Covid-19 pandemic

What does the Covid-19 pandemic do to people psychologically? This questions was addressed in a lecture at the University Hospital Jena, Germany.

What does Covid-19 do to people?

What does the Covid-19 pandemic do to people psychologically? These questions will be answered in the lecture "The Soul in Crisis - Psychosocial and Medical Late Sequelae of the SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic" (German title: Die Seele in der Krise – Psychosoziale und medizinische Spätfolgen der SARS-CoV-2-Pandemie) at the University Hospital Jena, Germany.

Translated from the original German version.

Since the beginning of the Corona pandemic, 4,342,649 Covid cases have been reported to the Robert Koch Institute in Germany (as of 14.10.2021), about 731,000 people were in quarantine. Since the beginning of 2020, people have been actively confronted with the fear of infection and loneliness due to contact restrictions? What does this situation do to people not only physically but also psychologically? Prof. Martin Walter dealt with the psychological consequences of the pandemic in his part of the lecture.

Children were less affected by loneliness during the Covid-19 pandemic

In his lecture, Walter presented a research paper by Maike Luhmann. The psychologist from the Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany showed that during the pandemic it was mainly people with children who felt lonely. What sounds surprising at first can be explained by the fact that they were bound by their children in their domestic loneliness. Luhmann had wanted to find out what it means as a mother, father, parent, couple, to be isolated with children. The children themselves were less affected by the loneliness, but nevertheless they were deprived of bonding activities. Violence against children also increased sharply during the pandemic, and obesity and depression became more prevalent. Parents were not able to maintain the discipline they had taught their children in using mobile phones or tablets. In general, however, a certain routine had a preventive effect, a network and hobbies were helpful for the children and also for adults.

Especially people with direct contact to Covid cases suffered psychologically

A massive over-supply of Covid information would have had a negative effect and increased their own fears. Especially in regions where the number of cases was particularly high and among people who worked in jobs that had direct contact with the coronavirus, i.e. jobs in medicine, nursing or the police. Worrying about money due to job loss and not being able to go shopping were also emotional challenges. Stigmatisation by jobs or working in professions where there were massive staff shortages, for example due to frequent quarantine cases, also had a negative impact on mental well-being.

Now, according to forecasts, the crisis will be over in Germany next spring, but the problems will not simply go away as a result, Walter explains. For it was not only Covid-19 sufferers themselves who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, but also people working in the medical field. There was too much work for them and too little for other professions. According to studies, sick leave for psychological reasons has increased sharply in Germany. Walter suspects that after a year and a half of the pandemic, those affected probably would not have had any strength left.

Loneliness initially took senior citizens less by surprise than children

For the senior citizens, the occupational effects were not a problem, but the isolation and loneliness were. They did not feel so alone at the beginning because they were often already used to it. But the longer the isolation lasted and no change in the situation was foreseeable, the psychological problems increased. Loneliness had increased, also because many older people were not familiar with modern media. They not only lacked analogue contact possibilities due to the loss of day centres, but also digital contact possibilities remained closed to them. And the fear of severe Covid-19 courses had also increased mental abnormalities.

People with hand washing compulsions felt less stigmatised

According to Walter, alcohol consumption increased alarmingly during the Corona pandemic. Unfortunately, former alcoholics have also relapsed since the summer. But there have also been positive effects. Patients with hand washing compulsions, for example, have stated that they no longer feel their disorder is so bad. This was because thorough hand washing and disinfection had become normal. Some compulsive patients felt less stigmatised and more understood.