Irregular sleep schedule and extended usage of electronic devices increased the odds of anxiety and depression during the pandemic, a study by University of Hong Kong and the Education University of Hong Kong has found.
Researchers have made made suggestions to help citizens enhance their well-being, such as to sustain regular routines where possible, with a particular focus on healthy eating, sleep and socializing.
They have conducted two surveys in the past two years on how Covid
-19 adversely affect people’s mental health and its association with society. The first survey started from February 25 to March 19 last year, in which the pandemic was less severe with fewer disruptive public health measures. The second survey started from April 15 to May 1 last year, when the pandemic was more severe with strengthened public health measures.
A total of 6,029 participants aged 15 or above in Hong Kong took part in the surveys. Results showed that the odds for developing anxiety were 14.9 percent and 14 percent in the first and second survey period. The prevalence of depression was 19.6 percent and 15.3 percent in the two survey periods respectively.
Research team found that groups under financial pressure, lower education level, single parents, or elderly people leading a relatively lonely life are more prone to developing anxiety and depression under the pandemic. Individuals with less assets like low savings or no home ownership are also at greater risks of developing poorer mental health during the pandemic.
The study also found pandemic curbs have cost children’s mental health dearly.
With 29,202 families with children surveyed in 2020, the team discovered that children were at a greater risk of having emotional and behavioral difficulties during the pandemic, while stress of their parents also greatly increased.
Studies have shown irregular sleep schedule and extended usage of electronic devices are associated with greater psycho-social problems in both children and adults. They also increased significantly the odds of anxiety and depression, both at the start of the pandemic and as it progressed.
The teams have made some recommendations for children, younger adults, and older adults to help enhance their mental health and overall well-being:
1. Sustain regular routines where possible, with a particular focus on healthy eating, sleep, socializing, leisure activities, and work/study
2. Cultivate resilience by building confidence in your ability to change and bounce back from hardships, and kindness towards others
3. Construct cooperative social relationships
4. Rearrange work priorities, and work on goal setting and time management
5. Avoid making comparisons with others on achievements
6. Strengthen family bonds and enable positive parent–child interactions
7. Avoid extended use of electronic gadgets and ensure sound sleep