Social Factors Predict Distress Development in Adults With Pre-existing Mental Disorders During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review


Physical distancing measures during the coronavirus pandemic are associated with increased psychological distress, especially in people with mental disorders. We investigated which social risk and resilience factors influence distress over time in people with pre-existing mental disorders. We conducted a longitudinal online survey with weekly follow-ups between April and July 2020 (n = 196 individuals with, and n = 545 individuals without pre-existing mental disorders at baseline). Our results show that individuals with, but not those without pre-existing mental disorders displayed higher distress levels when social resources and empathic disconnection are low and perceived social isolation is high. The distress development differed between participants with and without pre-existing mental disorders depending on their level of social resources, empathic disconnection, and perceived social isolation. These findings offer specific information for targeted social interventions to prevent an increase in incidence of mental disorders during physical distancing measures.


Original languageEnglish
Article number849650
JournalFrontiers in psychology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2022

External IDs

PubMedCentral PMC9286674
Scopus 85134249812
WOS 000827965900001
unpaywall 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.849650
ORCID /0000-0002-8845-8803/work/141545263
ORCID /0000-0002-2244-6025/work/142242142



  • COVID-19, psychological distress, pre-existing mental disorders, social resources, empathy, social isolation

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