In Mainland China, a study that compared the psychological impact during the COVID-19 outbreak with an epidemiological study conducted before the pandemic concluded that the rates of anxiety, depression, and alcohol consumption were higher, and mental well‐being was lower among Chinese people during COVID-19 than before. These can partly be attributed to the prevention and control measures taken by the Chinese government, including the nationwide quarantine, medical support, and resources from all over the country, measures (such as public education, strengthening individual protection, medical isolation, controlling of population mobility, reducing gatherings) to stop the spread of the virus.
A cross-sectional study in China with 4,782 participants discovered a positive correlation between frequent social media exposure and mental health problems. Social media is among the most popular channels to receive updates related to the COVID-19 pandemic in Mainland China, with 82% of the participants having frequent exposure to social media suffering from high levels of anxiety and a combination of depression and anxiety (CDA). The authors argue that misinformation and false news about the pandemic have created immense fear and confusion among internet users, which then led to a decline in mental health. Regression analyses show that individuals in the age group of 31 to 40 years old are most likely to experience pandemic-related depression and anxiety. Another survey of 52,730 people found that individuals between 18 and 30 years of age (young adults) or above 60 presented the highest CPDI (COVID-19 Peritraumatic Distress Index) scores.
For future policy, it is important to control the population’s mobility to stop the spread but the government must pay attention to vulnerable groups such as the young, the elderly, women, and migrant workers. It needs to allow strengthened accessible medical resources and the public health service system. Also, they need to create nationwide strategic planning and coordination for psychological first aid during major disasters, potentially delivered through telemedicine. Lastly, there needs to be a comprehensive crisis prevention and intervention system including epidemiological monitoring, screening, referral, and targeted intervention. All of these new policies will help reduce psychological distress and prevent further mental health problems.
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR)
Besides the common COVID-19 mitigation measures such as social-distancing, masks, and work-from-home policies, Hong Kong is a special case. It is home to the world’s longest hotel quarantine. On December 25th, 2020, the Hong Kong government established a 21-day hotel quarantine requirement for international incoming Hong Kong residents, to address the risks pertaining to a longer incubation period of the new mutation of the COVID-19 virus. Yet, these new mutations are rare, and most experts believed the virus has a 14-day incubation period. Is this draconian policy worth the financial, physical, and psychological burdens? Medical experts are pushing for a more lenient quarantine policy following its recent vaccine rollouts, although questions about when the population will reach herd immunity remain unanswered.
Research in 2018 shows that Hong Kong is the fifth most stressful city worldwide, owing to the city’s high levels of workload. However, a more recent survey organized by the Mental Health Month Organizing Committee discovered that both the pandemic and social turmoil have led to a major decline in the Hong Kong population’s mental health. The city’s mental health index averaged 45.12 out of 100 in 2020, lower than the 46.41 in the previous year, and significantly below WHO-5 wellbeing’s baseline of 52, indicating an extremely poor psychological state. Key stressors include finances, work satisfaction, COVID-19, and political turmoil. Moreover, nearly 90% of Hong Kong employees suffer from stress and anxiety.