RIYADH: Research conducted in Saudi Arabia on the psychological effects of the global lockdown caused by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) shows that symptoms of depression and anxiety ranging from mild to severe, particularly in women, are commonplace.
Dr. Deemah Alateeq, assistant professor of psychiatry at Princess Noura bint Abdulrahman University, conducted the study in March when the first cases of COVID-19 were detected and the country went into lockdown.
“The main objective is to assess the psychological well being of different samples of Saudi people during the pandemic,” said Alateeq. “There were three different samples; the first was health care providers working during the pandemic, in the Saudi centers of COVID-19, under the umbrella of the Ministry of Health (MoH).
“The other samples were people under quarantine in multiple hotels in March during the beginning of the pandemic, under the supervision of the MoH, and students from different levels — intermediate schools, secondary schools and university students.”
The findings of the research showed levels of depression and anxiety were prevalent among health care providers and also among the people under quarantine. More than half of the subjects for the research had symptoms of depression and anxiety ranging from mild to severe.
The students, meanwhile, expressed moderate to high levels of stress during the pandemic.
Alateeq also said in all the three samples, women had higher level of anxiety, depression and distress than men.
“This could be due to multiple reasons: The biological differences, (such as) fluctuation of the estrogen hormone, and also it could be because females usually tend to express their emotions more than males,” said Alateeq.
The findings also showed that nurses reported higher levels of anxiety and depression compared to other health care providers, such as physicians, pharmacists and administrators working during the pandemic.
“I think this is due to the high demand on their work compared to others,” said Alateeq. “It was also interesting that one of the findings was that university students have a higher level of anxiety and depression compared to high school and intermediate school students.”
Among the people in quarantine and among health care providers, younger adults showed higher levels of depression and anxiety compared to older adults.
Alateeq was surprised to receive a lot of positive responses from health care providers.
“They were proud of themselves, and they report they feel that it is a great opportunity to serve their country,” she said. “A lot of health care providers reported workplace-centered needs, which were financial support, psychological support and also physical support at the workplace itself.”
Alateeq said there were similarities in her findings to research conducted in other countries during the pandemic. “It was interesting that we have similar findings compared to Italy or China, or even the UK, but there were lower levels of anxiety and depression compared to other countries in the Arab world,” she added.