Mental health of Australian people in the first month of COVID-19 restrictions

Written by:
Jane RW Fisher, Thach D Tran, Karin Hammarberg, Jayagowri Sastry, Hau Nguyen, Heather Rowe, Sally Popplestone, Ruby Stocker, Claire Stubber & Maggie Kirkman

Medical Journal of Australia


The findings in a nutshell

This article presents the rationale and findings from a national mental health survey conducted in Australia at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The study is a response to an international expert opinion position paper (Lancet) on multidisciplinary approaches by Holmes and colleagues (2020) that recommended studies gather high quality population level data on the mental health impact of the pandemic. The aim of the study was to assess the mental health of people in Australia during the first month of COVID-19-related restrictions.

Mental health symptoms were widespread, including clinically significant symptoms of depression were reported by 3,791 respondents (27.6%) and mild symptoms by 3,440 (26.5%), clinically significant symptoms of generalised anxiety by 3,661 respondents (21.0%) and mild symptoms by 2,774 (24.5%). A total of 1,075 people (8.9%) reported having thoughts of being better off dead or self-harm on several days and 617 (5.7%) that they had such thoughts more frequently; 5,277 (35.5%) reported increased irritability on several days, and 3,058 (23.7%) more frequently. On the other hand, high optimism was reported by 4,075 respondents (28.3%).

Associations between COVID-19 experiences and mental health symptoms were explored.

The authors highlight the need to address these mental health consequences for occupational and social functioning for national recovery.

Implications in workplaces

Psychologically informed and tailored mental health strategies are needed to improve the mental health impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. Impacts vary and range from direct COVID-19 experiences (diagnosis, testing, job loss) to those that were impacted by the worry of infection and associated consequences and the restrictive public health measures. Employers should be aware of the potential mental health impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic on the Australian workforce population and provide support and referrals to assistance to aid in the national recovery to a motivated and healthy workforce.

To find out more about Mental health of people in Australia in the first month of COVID-19 restrictions: a national survey read the full article here.

Date published: November 2020

The authors are from Monash University, Melbourne, VIC. Jane Fisher, Professor of Global Health, is Director of Global and Women’s Health, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine. This investigation was supported by an untied philanthropic donation from John McBain and Penny Foster.

Insurance Quote

[contact-form-7 id="1142" title="Get a Quote" html_class="sc_form_quote"]