The first study in Romania on the impact of COVID-19 on physical and mental health currently shows that Romanians are sadder, angrier, more anxious and have an increased sense of loneliness. All of the above are directly related to the SARS-CoV- 2 pandemic.
The researchers undertaking this study have sounded the alarm following the preliminary results of the study which shows that the coronavirus pandemic has had significant effects on the mental health of Romanians: 42% of Romanian respondents reported a worsening of their stress levels and approximately one third of respondents reported an increase in nervousness.
The preliminary study was conducted with approximately 2,000 people aged between 28 and 50 years old. The data was analysed and interpreted by specialists at a consortium formed by the “Socola” Psychiatry Institute, the “Grigore T. Popa” University of Medicine and Pharmacy, the Romanian Psychiatry and Psychotherapy Association and Transilvania University.
The study shows that the coronavirus pandemic can be extremely stressful for certain people. Fear and anxiety can be overwhelming both for adults as well as children. Preliminary data shows that certain pre-existing medical conditions intensified for many patients, whilst others began expressing states of anxiety, depression and helplessness when faced with these new challenges. The undertaken research is part of the international COH-FIT (Collaborative Outcomes study on Health and Functioning during Infectious Times) program.
68% of interviewees estimated an increase in the time they spent following mass-media as a way to cope with and manage the situation. Other methods to reduce stress and pass the time included physical exercise, open-air walks, discovering new hobbies, spending time with pets as well as sexual activities.
42% of respondents reported an increase in their stress levels, a symptom which was experienced to a greater level by women (46%) and young adults (47%). Approximately a third of surveyed people reported greater nervousness, this again was more pronounced in women (35%) and young adults (38%). As far as loneliness goes, over a quarter of respondents (28%) expressed an increase of such throughout the course of the pandemic, with the largest deterioration of sociality being reported by younger age groups (36%).
The most efficient methods for adapting to Covid for women were the finding of new hobbies, browsing the internet and physical exercise and walks. For men on the other hand, physical intimacy and sexual activities were of greater importance when it came to managing stress compared to women who seemed to prefer the internet, social media and distanced social interactions.
Dr. Ovidiu Alexinschi, medical director at the “Socola” Psychiatry Institue and coordinator for the COH-FIT study in Romania has stated that “An early diagnosis of psycho-emotional disturbances is an important step in the establishment of an adequate treatment should the need arise, subsequently, family doctors have and should have a very significant role in this step. Anyone of us can unexpectedly progress from slight moments of sadness or apathy to depression – a psychic disturbance affects approximately 5% of the Romanian population.”
Even in instances of depression, a trip to the family doctor gives us the opportunity to talk and consult a trustworthy figure, who has a greater understanding of our personal situations at home, any diseases we may already have and can evaluate if our general state of wellbeing has altered. When we mention state of wellbeing, one refers to both physical and mental wellbeing. Following a short discussion, a doctor may often be able to identify whether our feelings are justifiable due to the difficult situation we have been dealt with or whether their intensity and persistence could potentially harm our health.
Dr. Alexinschi, medical director and coordinator of the COH-Fit study here in Romania further went on to say that “In these times remaining calm as well as thinking rationally prior to undertaking any action is highly recommended. After all, we must accept that we are going through a situation that we cannot control, and we must establish a daily routine. If we stay at home for example, we should gather our news only from safe and reputable sources and must set aside some daily time to relax or meditate (long baths, music, sports, yoga). More importantly however, should the above activities not yield any positive results, we should consult our family doctor in order to seek specialized help.”
The study has 3 main components, and alongside the preliminary data collected throughout the pandemic, researchers will create new questionnaires both six months and a year following the end pandemic. This will allow the study to have a thorough and clear perspective on the significance of the emotional and psychological effects the pandemic has had on people.
Throughout the course of the pandemic, the risk of suffering from depression or other mental and emotional disturbances was exacerbated by factors such as: poverty, the loss of a job or workplace, upsetting life events, such as the loss of a close person or the end of a relationship, physical diseases or even other problems associated with the consumption of alcohol or drugs.