Tuesday September 21, 2021

Coronavirus causes mental distress among highly educated women

Published : 23 Jul 2021, 15:15

Updated : 24 Jul 2021, 03:01

  DF Report

Helsinki and Uusimaa hospital district (HUS). File Photo City of Helsinki.

Psychological distress increased among working-age adults in the second wave of the coronavirus epidemic, according to results of recent research by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

Distress increased especially among those aged 30 to 49, who also used more health services than before for problems related to mental health, said a THL press release on Friday.

However, suicidal thoughts did not increase in the autumn of 2020 and the early winter of 2021.

The most negative changes were seen among women with a high level of education, among whom both psychological distress and suicidal thoughts increased.

The information is based on the FinSote Survey implemented in 2020 whose results were compared with a study conducted in 2017-2018.

In addition, early results have come from the FinHealth Study. Those invited to participate in the 2017 study were sent a new survey last year. The responses showed that psychological distress had increased among people of all educational backgrounds.

“It is important to ascertain if the negative changes among people of different age groups and educational backgrounds were linked with unemployment or the exceptional distress caused by working during the coronavirus epidemic. Research results that are specific to professional groups are needed on how the psychological stress caused by the coronavirus is reflected among, for example, employees in social and health care and education, or among employees in commerce and construction”, said Jaana Suvisaari, research professor at THL.

“The increase in distress can certainly also be connected with an increase in loneliness or in conflicts in human relationships”, Suvisaari pointed out.

Questions were also raised in the FinSote Survey on the use of health services for problems related to mental health. Women with a high level of education, and men with a lower level of education were more inclined to seek health care services than before.

“I find this to be an encouraging result. We have long known that not everyone who suffers from mental health problems seeks help. Now in groups where symptoms have increased significantly, the use of the services has also increased, and services have been available. On the other hand, this study does not give more detailed information on the quality or adequacy of the treatment”, Suvisaari said.

Although psychological distress increased, the FinHealth Study found that positive mental health has generally remained unchanged among the population. Positive mental health refers to psychological resources. The results of the research confirm the idea that despite situations that are psychologically onerous, it is possible for people to preserve their mental well-being and their psychological resources.

Factors involving distress and relief connected with the epidemic situation and those unrelated to it are being examined more closely in further studies. There is a need to ascertain what factors explain psychological symptoms that emerge during the epidemic, and also, which ones have positive effects on mental health.

“The mental health impact of the epidemic situation is like a moving train. According to the Citizens’ Pulse inquiry by Statistics Finland, stress among the population increased in the second wave of the epidemic and remained high throughout the spring. There was slight improvement in the situation in the late spring”, Suvisaari noted.

According to Suvisaari, the mental health impact of the epidemic situation should be monitored closely to determine if symptoms ease when daily life returns to normal. In addition to monitoring, we need input both into preventative measures and mental health services. This work is supported in projects of the National Mental Health Strategy and the Future Health and Social Services Centre programme.

The results of the research are based on THL population studies. The FinHealth Study produces up-to-date data on the health and welfare of adults living in Finland. The FinSote Survey helps monitor changes among different populations and groups and regions in the well-being and health of the population.

The FinSote 2020 Survey was conducted between September 2020 and February 2021. Most of those studied responded to the survey in the autumn of 2020. A total of 28,199 people took part in the survey.