Donya Gilan, Markus Müssig, Omar Hahad, Angela Kunzler, Simon Samstag, Nikolaus Röthke, Johannes Thrul, Frauke Kreuter, Michael Bosnjak, Philipp Sprengholz, Cornelia Betsch, Daniel Wollschläger, Oliver Tüscher, Klaus Lieb
Protective and Risk Factors for Mental Distress and Its Impact on Health-Protective Behaviors during the SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic between March 2020 and March 2021 in Germany

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2021: 18, issue 17, (article no. 9167)
ISSN: 1660-4601 (online)

The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic is posing a global public health burden. These consequences have been shown to increase the risk of mental distress, but the underlying protective and risk factors for mental distress and trends over different waves of the pandemic are largely unknown. Furthermore, it is largely unknown how mental distress is associated with individual protective behavior. Three quota samples, weighted to represent the population forming the German COVID-19 Snapshot Monitoring study (24 March and 26 May 2020, and 9 March 2021 with >900 subjects each), were used to describe the course of mental distress and resilience, to identify risk and protective factors during the pandemic, and to investigate their associations with individual protective behaviors. Mental distress increased slightly during the pandemic. Usage of cognitive reappraisal strategies, maintenance of a daily structure, and usage of alternative social interactions decreased. Self-reported resilience, cognitive reappraisal strategies, and maintaining a daily structure were the most important protective factors in all three samples. Adherence to individual protective behaviors (e.g., physical distancing) was negatively associated with mental distress and positively associated with frequency of information intake, maintenance of a daily structure, and cognitive reappraisal. Maintaining a daily structure, training of cognitive reappraisal strategies, and information provision may be targets to prevent mental distress while assuring a high degree of individual protective behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic. Effects of the respective interventions have to be confirmed in further studies.