Hand washing

The pandemic’s mental toll: new survey finds one in five suffer from Covid-19 Anxiety Syndrome

The study shows that many people still find it difficult to disengage from the Covid-19 threats which may make returning to daily life difficult as restrictions ease
06 July 2021

Covid-19 Anxiety Syndrome is still causing many people to struggle with reintegrating into daily life, even with most Covid-19 restrictions in England expected to lift from July 19, according to new research led by LSBU.

The new UK-wide survey of 975 people, conducted in late June, found:

  • 40% strongly reported avoiding touching things in public spaces because of a fear of the virus;
  • 30% strongly reported avoiding public transport because of a fear of contracting the virus;
  • 23% strongly reported avoiding going out to public places because of a fear of the virus;
  • 25% strongly reported paying close attention to others displaying possible symptoms of the virus;
  • One in five people scored highly on Covid-19 Anxiety Syndrome scale.

Loss of a family member due to Covid-19 was predictive of higher levels of Covid-19 Anxiety Syndrome. Age, gender, and vaccination status were not found to be predictors.

Professor Marcantonio Spada from LSBU’s Centre for Addictive Behaviours and Professor Ana Nikčević from Kingston University first identified the concept of Covid-19 Anxiety Syndrome in April 2020. Their research found that people were developing a particular set of behaviours as a result of their fear of the virus, and they conducted the current study in collaboration with Professor Ian Albery from LSBU’s Centre for Addictive Behaviours Research.

Covid-19 Anxiety Syndrome consists of forms of coping such as a constant attention to threat, worry, avoidance and excessive checking, that can keep people locked into a state of continuous anxiety and fear of contracting the virus.

Professor Marcantonio Spada, Professor of Addictive Behaviours and Mental Health at LSBU, said, “Our data indicates that after one month of re-opening of society many people are still struggling with aspects of Covid-19 Anxiety Syndrome, a similar figure to what we previously observed during full lockdown. This means that there are still many people who find it difficult to disengage from the Covid-19 threats which may make return to normal daily living harder as restrictions ease.

“Our new findings show how vital it is that people affected by ‘Covid-19 Anxiety Syndrome’ receive support. Mapping out how we will do this will become a priority for mental health service providers.”