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The impact of covid-19 on the physical and mental health of Spain’s adult population

Pere Castellví Obiols, Andrea Miranda Mendizábal, Silvia Recoder Fernández, Esther Calbo Sebastián and Carlos García Forero, Universitat Internacional de Catalunya; David Leiva Ureña, Rumen Manolov and Antonio Solanas Pérez, Universitat de Barcelona; Nuria Matilla Santander, Karolinska Institute (Stockholm); Marc Casajuana Closas, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
Project selected in the Call to support research projects on the social impact of covid-19

This study assesses the changes in the socioeconomic status and the physical and mental health of the Spanish population before and during the covid-19 pandemic (December 2019 – December 2020). With respect to health, a third of survey respondents feel that their health is worse or a lot worse and only 6.6% feel that it is better. In general, a significant deterioration is observed with regard to undertaking daily ac-tivities. In mental health, even though suicidal thoughts and suicidal behaviour have fallen by half, there has been a substantial increase in cases of depression, anxiety, and thoughts about death. There have also been increases in symptoms of post-traumatic stress. In the socioeconomic sphere, the pandemic has caused greater precarity and job instability.
Key points
  • 1
       If we compare people’s health before and during the pandemic, 20.9% of survey respondents report that they are a little worse and 2.1%, a lot worse. Some 8.4% are experiencing worse physical health and 5.5%, worse mental health. They also report more difficulties with everyday life due to health conditions.
  • 2
       With regard to mental health problems, depression has increased from 5.75% to 8.84% among the general population, anxiety is up from 11.6% to17.8% and thoughts about death rose from 22.9% to 28.5%. In contrast, suicidal ideation and behaviour have fallen almost by half.
  • 3
       People who have suffered symptoms related with covid-19, or who have tested positive, present more mental health problems and more symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Groups least likely to suffer a problem of this type were men, the over 40s, people married or living with their partner, and those who work, do the housework, or are retired.
  • 4
       Of those people with partners, nearly 10% have experienced fear of their partner and 3.64% have suffered some form of aggression from them. The most common violent behaviours experienced involved receiving some type of insult and being blamed for the aggressor’s violent conduct.
  • 5
       Among people with incomes, 18.4% have seen a fall in income since the state of alarm began and nearly half have not always been able to take sick leave when they needed to do so. Some 10.2% have had to go to work while experiencing symptoms compatible with covid-19. The average economic cost per adult in terms of use of public or private health services and individual spending, without taking into account the costs of medicines and vaccines, has been €106.10 per month.
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