Physical Distancing and Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Factors Associated With Psychological Symptoms and Adherence to Pandemic Mitigation Strategies

In this epidemiological investigation, we assessed the prevalence of depression and anxiety symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic.


A total of 10,061 adults participated in the study. Symptoms of depression and anxiety were 2 to 3 times higher compared with prepandemic samples. Participants who predominantly socially distanced themselves revealed substantially higher symptoms than their counterparts. Females, ethnic and sexual-orientation minorities, younger adults, unemployed individuals, and participants with a psychiatric diagnosis reported higher prevalence of psychological symptoms. Worry about prolonged duration of physical-distancing protocols and frustration of autonomy was associated with elevation in symptoms of depression and anxiety. Increased competence to deal with the pandemic crisis was associated with fewer adverse symptoms. Physical exercise, experiencing nature, and distraction with activities were associated with reduced depressive symptoms but not anxiety. The extent of information access about the pandemic was associated with reduced anxiety symptoms. Furthermore, adherence to mitigation protocols was investigated. Younger adults and males reported lowest adherence. Altruistic attitudes, in addition to mandatory as opposed to voluntary adherence, were associated with higher adherence rates. Worrying about the health of significant others was associated with higher adherence rates, whereas worry about duration of pandemic protocols was associated with lower adherence rates.

Clinical Psychological Science, 2021,

Published Apr. 19, 2021 6:00 AM