Not all the effects of COVID-19 are physical. How have the public health measures impacted on body and mind? Professor Jim Codde wants to find out.

COVID-19’s acute health impacts are increasingly better understood for infected individuals but the secondary health impacts (e.g. mental health, health service demand, lifestyle factors, stress, and domestic violence) for the wider, uninfected community are less so.

Similarly, while the economic impacts of the global shutdown will be acute for the next 12 months, the financial effects are likely to continue for several years and will further exacerbate the health and social consequences of the community.

While quarantine and isolation can reduce disease infection rates, there are also significant, associated psychological and mental health effects that impact on mental wellbeing.

A recent systematic review found that time spent in infectious disease quarantine resulted in negative psychological outcomes, including insomnia, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and emotional exhaustion. Additionally, where parents were quarantined with children, the mental health toll increased with one study reporting that no less than 28% of quarantined parents warranted a diagnosis of “trauma-related mental health disorder”.

Professor Jim Codde

Professor Jim Codde

Mental well-being is also related to feelings of loneliness which, in turn, can be exacerbated by any lockdown restrictions.

Psychological wellbeing and mental health have been shown to be associated with levels of physical activity, sedentary behaviours, diet, and quality of life. Therefore, any changes in either mental health or associated lifestyle behaviours may impact negatively on one another.

The COVID-19 lockdown period provides an ideal environment in which to study these impacts. The restrictions placed on movement outside the home and other physical distancing measures changed the way West Australians worked, socialised, shopped and exercised.

While some restrictions are still in place, many have been lifted. It is essential to collect retrospective data now while the experience is still fresh in the minds of the community.

WA research survey

To examine these questions, researchers at the University of Notre Dame Australia are inviting West Australians over the age of 18 years to complete an online survey to provide insights on how the COVID-19 lockdown impacted on their “body and mind” and what issues may persist.

Three research questions will be answered:

  1. What self-reported changes in nutrition, physical activity, and sedentary behaviour occurred during the COVID-19 lockdown period (April to June 2020) relative to the current time?
  1. What were the changes in the relationships between nutrition, physical activity, sedentary behaviours, with mental well-being and quality of life (QoL) during the lockdown period relative to the current?
  1. What were the associations between social and economic impacts of the lockdown period on mental well-being and QoL?

Significance of the study

The WHO released health promotion material about the importance of “staying physical at home”, “healthy eating” and “looking after our mental health” as part of their #HealtyAtHome program during the COVID-19 lockdown period.

Other countries, including Australia, focused more on the importance of social distancing, personal hygiene and social isolation in their messaging while largely failing to provide strategies for maintaining optimal physical and mental health.

This study will elucidate the changes to diet, physical activity and mental health during the lockdown period and the concomitant influences compared to current levels. The study’s outcomes will help inform development and delivery of health promotional activities at state and local government level should WA be impacted by a second wave of the virus or similar emergency.

This state-government funded survey can be found at https://notredame.syd1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_2i6cRGer71duajP and takes about 20 minutes to complete.

References on request

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