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Global Research Initiative Assessing the Mental Health Effects of COVID-19

September 10, 2020
Christoph U. Correll

A general population survey launched in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic has collected responses from more than 92,000 people in 140 countries, Christoph U. Correll, MD, a co-leader of the project, said during the Psych Congress 2020 welcome session.

Dr. Correll, who is from Germany, said he and project co-leader Marco Solmi, MD, PhD, from Italy were stunned by the outbreak and felt passive watching it unfold.

“We felt we need to do something and turn this passivity and also this extraordinary environmental pressure and stressor into research questions and research answers, so that we could inform the field,” he said. They had the idea for the project on April 1, 2020, and by April 11, 2020, had 200 people working on it.

The Collaborative Outcomes study on Health and Functioning during Infection Times (COH-FIT) is an ongoing anonymous survey designed to measure the physical and mental health effects of the pandemic among the general population and subgroups such as frontline workers, health care workers, older and younger people, people with prior illnesses, and immigrants. It is also examining access to health care, the impact of restrictions and lockdowns, and coping strategies.

Respondents have been asked to compare the last two weeks of their life to the last two weeks before the pandemic. Early data shows that females have experienced more stress during the outbreak, particularly those with children at home, Dr. Correll said.

The survey has been translated into 29 languages and the project now involves 230 investigators in 40 countries. Surveys will also be taken 6 and 12 months after the World Health Organization has declared the pandemic to be over, which Dr. Correll believes is 12 to 18 months away. He hopes the findings will be helpful during future pandemics.

Dr. Correll was one of 3 people interviewed during the opening session of Psych Congress about the work they have done in response to the pandemic.

Psych Congress 2020 cochair Charles Raison, MD, said that with the rates of anxiety and depression multiplying during the outbreak, a mental health pandemic is brewing and mental health clinicians have become “one of the most essential of all specialties.”

“This is a really, really important time for all of us to pool our resources together, support each other and provide the relief that will be so sorely needed by our patients,” Psych Congress 2020 cochair Vladimir Maletic, MD, MS, said.

—Terri Airov


“Welcome session: The COVID-19 pandemic impact on mental health care.” Presented at Psych Congress 2020: Virtual; September 10, 2020.

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