The most prominent side-effect of COVID-19 is definitely going to be the psychological impact that it has imparted on the global population. The whole world has been quarantined for more than a year. The social contacts are obsolete, family members are lost, recreational activities are clogged, and the global economic scenario is dismal
The world is currently combatting the worst pandemic of our time, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). It has been more than a year that the human race has been terribly shaken. A total of almost 2.9 million deaths related to COVID-19 within a year itself depict the havoc created by this calamity. In the course of human civilisation, the world has suffered from different endemics and pandemics at different times.
The latest pandemic that our generation confronted before COVID-19 was the 2002-2004 outbreak of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), the first pandemic of the 21st century that affected people from 29 countries.
In due course of time, region-specific endemics such as MERS, H1N1, Ebola and Zika kept emerging.
However, the mayhems of these endemics were controlled within a short period using appropriate outbreak responses.
COVID-19 rapidly spread throughout the world by the first quarter of 2020.
The global health fraternity did not seem well-prepared to cope with this disease.
By April 2020, a global health emergency was declared, and movement restriction accompanied by closure of schools, universities, shops and public places were imposed throughout the world.
Despite these preventive measures, the infection rate of COVID-19 and subsequent fatality skyrocketed.
So far, the highest numbers of deaths have been recorded in the USA, followed by Brazil and India.
In the meantime, jab campaigns are going on throughout the world.
At the moment, outbreaks of the second and third waves of COVID-19 are being reported globally.
Nevertheless, with the help of ongoing vicious inoculation approaches and contemporarily improved outbreak responses, the pandemic is definitely going to be restrained anytime soon.
Even of late, some countries, like New Zealand, Singapore and Australia, are performing exceptionally well against COVID-19. It is just a matter of time before we will have conquered the pandemic.
However, that will just be the tip of an iceberg. It will take ages for the world to ward off the pandemonium that COVID-19 will leave behind.
The most prominent side-effect of COVID-19 is definitely going to be the psychological impact that it has imparted on the global population. The whole world has been quarantined for more than a year.
The social contacts are obsolete, family members are lost, recreational activities are clogged, and the global economic scenario is dismal.
These social aspects play a vital role in the psychological break-down of an individual; the fear of contracting the virus is still there. All these elements are directly related to the development of mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, delusion, feeling of helplessness and abrupt mood change.
The effects of COVID-19 on mental health are gradually being revealed throughout the world. A recent study that involved
some 11,500 Italian and Spanish subjects, conducted during the lockdown, revealed children and young adults as the vulnerable group for developing psychological symptoms.
More than three-fourths of the children developed loss of concentration and about 52 per cent of the children suffered from
boredom during home confinement.
Another study conducted in a German cohort of 1,556 families reported two-thirds of the children and adolescents being highly burdened by the pandemic.
Their health-related quality of life deteriorated significantly during the pandemic and saw increased mental health problems, including higher levels of anxiety. Furthermore, a social media-based survey on the impact of COVID-19 on mental health of the general population of Nepal shows an immense increment in the rates of mental health symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and psychological distress. Similar results are being revealed in various countries, with children and young adults being severely affected.
My personal experiences during the lockdown period are also in line with the results of different psychological studies conducted worldwide.
During the lockdown period, I have keenly observed abrupt behavioural changes in my 4-year-old daughter. At the beginning, she was happy to be with the parents the whole day, but gradually the negative impact of being separated from her kindergarten friends and isolation from social contacts started to emerge.
She kept asking why she is not allowed to go to the kindergarten. Anxiousness and frequent mood swings were obvious. It was really difficult for us to comfort a toddler. We were finally glad to see the glow of excitement on her face when the kindergarten reopened after the lockdown.
Although it is too early for a kid her age to understand, my daughter is well acquainted with the terms 'corona', 'lockdown', 'virus' and 'PCR' during the pandemic.
Unfortunately, it will take a very long time for the society to erase off these adverse impacts of COVID-19 from the psyche of these so-called 'corona toddlers'.
The world is still focussed on fighting the adverse impacts of the pandemic in physical health.
Main priority of the global health fraternity is rightly to save the lives of the people.
But it seems the psychological aspects of COV- ID-19 are still being ignored.
Hence, different representative studies showing the adverse effects of COV- ID-19 on the mental health of the people, especially in children and adolescents, should be considered as a wake-up call. In addition to the ongoing vaccination campaigns, abrupt strategies to monitor and promote the mental health of the children and youths will aid in warding off the overall adverse effects of COVID-19.
Dr Joshi is a senior scientist and Assistant Professor of Neurobiology at Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany
A version of this article appears in the print on April 16, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.