People in China who said they felt knowledgeable about the coronavirus at the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic were more likely to have a positive emotional state than those who said they didn’t, a new study shows.
Drawing from two large nationwide surveys conducted in China around the time of the coronavirus outbreak, researchers found the onset of the pandemic led to a 74% drop in overall emotional well-being.
Residing near an outbreak epicenter, being a member of a vulnerable group such as the elderly, and dealing with relationship issues during a lockdown were all factors that accentuated the decline.
The researchers note, however, that people who perceived themselves as knowledgeable about the virus—regardless of the actual amount of their knowledge—experienced more happiness during the outbreak than did those who didn’t perceive themselves as informed about COVID-19.
This higher perception of one’s own knowledge associated with a stronger sense of control, which helped protect emotional well-being, says Haiyang Yang, an assistant professor in the Carey Business School at Johns Hopkins University.
What’s more, this conclusion was largely consistent across demographic and economic groups.
“People’s perceptions about themselves are often more potent in influencing their emotional well-being than the corresponding objective aspects,” says Yang.
He adds that the findings of the study could inform public policymakers and mental health authorities who seek to protect or boost psychological well-being during a major outbreak such as COVID-19.
“Resources for mental health care should be made more available to groups that are most psychologically vulnerable during an epidemic,” says Yang.
“Specific policies, programs, and interventions need to be developed to help foster positive family relationships during an extended lockdown. Also, efforts that increase people’s understanding of how to effectively prevent infection can help boost their sense of control and, consequently, their psychological health.”
The research appears in Psychiatry Research. Yang’s coauthor Jingjing Ma is from Peking University.
Source: Johns Hopkins University