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Study finds rise in depression and anxiety due to COVID-19

14 Mar 2021

Anxiety, depression and sleep disturbance as a result of COVID-19 have been reported among 30 per cent of a sur-vey group comprising citizens and residents, according to a study. 

The study included 1,580 citizens and residents from governorates across the sultanate. Among those with symptoms of anxiety and depression due to the ongoing pandemic, most were women. 

Dr Hamad al Senawi, senior consultant – Department of Behavioural Medicine at Sultan Qaboos University Hospital, informed that the study started with the outbreak of the pandemic in the country and included doctors and nursing staff who were among the most vulnerable groups to psychological stress.  

“Doctors and nursing staff have experienced frustration with working longer hours due to the increase in the number of cases needing medical attention,” Dr Senawi said.  

The study also found an increase in depression and anxiety arising out of the fear of the future, the impact of the pandemic, closure of businesses and fear of job loss. Some families also witnessed an increase in domestic violence. 

“Scientific studies have shown a relationship between the psychological state of an individual and his physical immunity; people who enjoy good mental health have better immunity and vice versa. The lockdown has led to some behaviours such as panic shopping that was seen at the start of the pandemic. Some people suffer from obsessive-compulsive symptoms such as exaggeration in sterilising hands, avoiding others completely, and not leaving their house even in the absence of a lockdown. These behaviours affect their mental health negatively,” said Dr Senawi. 

“Home and institutional isolation negatively affect a person’s mental health. Health isolation may cause feelings of loneliness, anxiety and depression, so we advise people to continue communicating with friends and family via phone or social media.” 

“Those in quarantine should follow a specific routine for sleeping, eating and exercising, in addition to using the time to learn new skills.” 

Dr Senawi also asks people to avoid frustrating news and rumours that exacerbate the effects of COVID-19. “Anyone who suffers from anxiety can request psychological counselling from specialists through virtual clinics that allow them to speak with a doctor or psychotherapist via video conferencing within safe programmes that preserve the privacy of the patient. 

“Getting vaccinated is one of the most effective ways of living with COVID-19 and to gradually return to life as before,” Dr Senawi said.  

Corroborating the study conducted in Oman, Dr Badr bin Ali al Habsi, consultant physician and director of Al Masarra Hospital, said, “Surveys on mental health of the general public during the COVID-19 pandemic found that symptoms of anxiety and depression increased significantly, between 48 to 51 per cent.” 

Dr Nada bint Abdullah al Balushi, specialist physician and head of Medical Rehabilitation Department at Al Masarra Hospital, noted that men and women aged 40 years and below are most vulnerable to mental disorders. Social bonding during periods of home isolation or quarantine is necessary to counter the negative psychological effects associated with it. 


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