Coronavirus kindness: Americans genuinely more concerned for others during pandemic

PHILADELPHIA — Are Americans showing more selfishness or selflessness during the coronavirus pandemic? An uplifting new survey shows that, thankfully and admirably, it’s the latter. Results show that people generally report worrying more about their loved ones’ health or unknowingly spreading the virus to others than their own wellbeing.

Researchers from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and University of Pennsylvania surveyed more than 3,000 Americans on their coronavirus worries. Additionally, this research suggests that increased resilience is associated with lower levels of pandemic-related anxiety and depression.

While the coronavirus is primarily a threat to one’s physical health, the past few months have also been quite difficult from a mental perspective. The fear, uncertainty, and waiting we’ve all had to endure has been a test of each person’s resilience. So, researchers theorized the pandemic is a good time to study resilience among Americans.

“The opportunity to study mental resilience during this pandemic is unprecedented,” says lead author Dr. Ran Barzilay, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at CHOP and an assistant professor at the hospital’s Lifespan Brain Institute, in a release. “Our frontline health care workers are acutely aware of the mental health challenges facing everyone right now, so there is an urgent need to quantify the effects of resilience and determine how future studies might guide us toward improving mental health under these changing circumstances.”

How are Americans feeling during the coronavirus pandemic?

Earlier this year the research team set up an online coronavirus survey. The survey measures six main sources of pandemic stress: fear of contracting the coronavirus personally; fear of dying from the virus; currently dealing with a coronavirus infection; fear of a family member becoming infected; fear of unknowingly infecting other people; and experiencing major financial problems.

Responses were also analyzed for signs of depression and anxiety.

A total of 3,042 Americans and Israelis (ages 18-79) participated. Most were living in areas under lockdown orders when they took the survey. It’s also important to note that 20% of participants are healthcare workers.

The results reveal that respondents worry much more about their family members contracting the coronavirus (48.5%) or infecting other people (36%) than becoming infected and sick themselves (19.9%).

Researchers calculated the rate of anxiety among participants as 22.2%, while the rate of depression was 16.1%. There were no differences in these rates among healthcare workers in comparison to other participants.

Resilient individuals less likely to struggle with mental health issues

Also, respondents showing higher levels of resilience also report fewer coronavirus worries. These participants were 69% less likely to battle depression, and 65% less likely to suffer anxiety.

“Based on our study, it appears that people are more worried about others than themselves when reporting their COVID-19 related concerns, but encouragingly, resilience helps reduce these worries, as well as anxiety and depression,” comments Dr. Raquel Gur, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania and the director of LiBI. “As we get a better grasp of what constitutes resilience in people during COVID-19, we hope that soon we will be able to inform interventions that can enhance resilience, thereby mitigating the adverse effects of COVID-19 on mental health.”

The study is published in Translational Psychiatry.

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