Mental health study to assess COVID-19 fallout

An important new study will analyse the mental health and wellbeing of South Australians pre and post COVID-19 to gain insights into where public health support should be directed.

While South Australia has largely escaped the devastating death and case rates of the rest of the world, the underlying mental health impacts from the pandemic are still yet to be fully realised.

The Hospital Research Foundation is funding this collaborative study in its fight against COVID-19 and as part of its long-term support of mental health services.

“The enormous social and economic dislocation resulting from the coronavirus crisis are expected to have both short and long-term consequences on a scale we’ve never seen before,”  the CEO of the Hospital Research Foundation Mr Paul Flynn says.

“This study will provide critical insights into how we’ve been coping physically, mentally and socially and identify what support is needed in the future.”

More than 3000 people will be invited to participate in the study, led by Professor Robert Adams from Flinders University and involving researchers from Flinders, The Freemason’s Centre for Male Health and Wellbeing, The University of Adelaide, SAHMRI and the Appleton Institute, Central Queensland University.

Participants will be sourced from existing databases from the North West Adelaide Health Study and Florey Adelaide Male Ageing Study.

Professor Adams says the study would use the existing data collected from subsets of the South Australian community over the past 20 years to form a baseline standard, which would then allow a more accurate indication of how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected mental health and wellbeing.

“Without this historical data, it would be very difficult to attribute if any change in mental health or distress was due to the current situation or consistent with their usual trajectory,” Professor Adams says.

“This modelling approach allows us to quantify the short and medium-term effects of a significant event like this on a person’s health.

“The data will also allow us to identify distinguishing characteristics between study participants. For example, we will be able to identify whether having a pre-existing anxiety disorder or poor sleep quality increased your likelihood of experiencing distress during COVID-19, and whether, for instance, physical activity (and how much) has helped manage this stress.”

The Minister for Health and Wellbeing, Hon Stephen Wade MLC, backed the study to help improve understanding of the long-term mental health impacts for South Australians.

“The Marshall Government is acutely aware of the pressures the pandemic is placing on the South Australian community – and we know the impact will continue for years,” Minister Wade said.

“We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with South Australians experiencing mental health concerns and have injected millions more dollars into programs and initiatives which help our community during these challenging times.

“Reports such as this will help give us a greater understanding of where that help is needed and how to address the problems faced.”


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College of Medicine and Public Health Research