Researchers at Bangor University have discovered that individuals who strictly adhered to Covid lockdown measures during the pandemic are currently experiencing more pronounced mental health challenges.
The study has revealed that those who initially followed the restrictions most closely when the pandemic began are now more prone to suffering from stress, anxiety, and depression, The Guardian reported.
The research team pinpointed those individuals with “communal” personalities, characterised by a caring and sensitive nature adhered most rigorously to the lockdown protocols endorsed by Boris Johnson, senior medics, and scientists.
However, those with “agentic” personalities, known for independence, competitiveness, and a desire for control, were less inclined to exhibit such behaviours.
“The more individuals complied with health advice during lockdown, the worse their wellbeing post-lockdown,” concluded Dr Marley Willegers and colleagues.
The fear of contracting Covid had both positive and negative impacts, the researchers found. They noted that while heightening individuals’ concerns about infection could effectively encourage adherence to guidelines, it also had adverse effects on people’s well-being and recovery.
Their findings stemmed from a study involving 1,729 individuals in Wales, assessing their compliance with lockdown measures during the initial UK-wide lockdown from March to September 2020.
Additionally, the study measured stress, anxiety, and depression levels among these individuals from February to May this year.
Individuals with “communal” tendencies showcased the most prolonged impact on their mental well-being. Conversely, those with an “agentic” disposition demonstrated a better capacity to recover from the effects of lockdown.
According to Willegers, a researcher at Bangor University’s Institute for the Psychology of elite performance, certain individuals struggled with the shift from regularly receiving guidance on adhering to public health advice during the pandemic to the absence of guidance once the lockdown ended.
As the pandemic transitioned into its recovery phase, messaging campaigns primarily focused on sustaining rule adherence, lacking guidance for a safe return to normalcy.
This absence of transitional messaging affected certain personality types, causing some individuals to maintain infection prevention behaviour and anxiety, which undermines their mental well-being.
The enduringly poor mental health observed among individuals adhering to the rules is “deeply disturbing” the Centre for Mental Health think tank said.
Andy Bell, the centre’s chief executive, highlighted that the enduring fear, loss, and trauma stemming from the pandemic continue to impact many individuals’ mental well-being.
He noted that for some, the loss of social solidarity due to witnessing non-compliance with restrictions might have exacerbated these effects.
According to experts, the increased demand for NHS psychological and psychiatric services in recent years is predominantly attributed to the widespread damage inflicted on mental health in Britain by the Covid pandemic.
Mark Winstanley, the chief executive of Rethink Mental Illness, emphasised that the initial phase of the pandemic brought substantial disruption, uncertainty, and a sense of helplessness, all of which can contribute to heightened anxiety and low mood.
Individuals who took substantial measures to safeguard themselves and others have experienced a lasting effect on their mental well-being.
The ongoing concerns about loved ones’ health and the risks to personal health persist, indicating that the legacy of the pandemic endures despite the desire to move forward from the lockdown era.
In planning future government health advertising campaigns, Willegers suggests considering the diverse personality types within the population.
He emphasises the necessity for campaigns to lay emphasis on both the personal consequences and advantages involved, shifting the focus from solely highlighting responsibility to others.