West J Nurs Res. 2024 Mar;46(3):192-200. doi: 10.1177/01939459241228687. Epub 2024 Feb 11.
BACKGROUND: Understanding the relationship between mental health and COVID-19 prevention practices is crucial but challenging considering COVID-19’s impact on mental well-being. Liberia, a West African country, had well-documented rates of depression and anxiety prior to COVID-19. Liberia responded aggressively to COVID-19 while case counts remained low; thus, it is an ideal setting to study the relationship of mental health and COVID-19 prevention practices.
METHODS: A validated cross-sectional survey was administered to 250 randomly selected residents of Montserrado county, Liberia in June 2021, asking about their mental health and adherence to COVID-19 prevention practices. The survey included the Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 and the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 to assess for anxiety and depression, respectively. Responses were analyzed using Spearman correlation and regression.
RESULTS: Scores indicative of depression were present in 43% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 37-49) of participants; scores indicative of anxiety were present in 41% (95% CI: 34-47). Self-reported adherence to COVID-19 prevention practices was middling and varied greatly by behavior. Higher scores for depression and anxiety were significantly associated with lower adherence to COVID-19 prevention practices.
CONCLUSIONS: Results indicate that while the spread of COVID-19 has certainly affected mental health, it is likely that pre-existing mental health conditions affected the spread of COVID-19 through lower adherence to prevention practices. Policymakers should consider investing in mental health services as an important step in managing future epidemics, and the needs of people with poor mental health when designing epidemic responses, particularly in low-income countries where the burdens of adherence are likely to be greater.