The impact of measures such as lockdown and isolation to flatten the curve of COVID-19 has begun showing on the mental health of several demographics across the world. While healthcare providers and other frontline workers may be especially vulnerable, a new study has pointed out that people are at a higher risk of depression during this lockdown due to low or absent natural mood regulation.
The study, conducted by a team of researchers from the Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, involved 58,328 participants low, middle, and high-income countries and looked at whether a lack of natural mood regulation can be linked to a history of depression. The natural mood regulation mechanism or ‘mood homeostasis’, is the link between how people may be feeling right now and the activities they choose next in order to stabilize their mood.
It was observed that in people with low mood or depression history, mood regulation mechanisms could be impaired. Furthermore, in the present pandemic situation, people’s access to mood-elevating or calming activities is limited, which does not help the functioning of the mood homeostasis.
Guy Goodwin, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, said, “When we are down we tend to choose to do things that cheer us up and when we are up we may take on activities that will tend to bring us down. However, in our current situation with COVID-19, lockdowns, and social isolation our choice of activity is very limited. Our research shows this normal mood regulation is impaired in people with depression, providing a new, direct target for further research and development of new treatments to help people with depression.”
On the other hand, the study also sheds light on the association between activities and their effects in countries of different income levels. It was found that exercise helped people in high-income countries, whereas religion was an important factor in the other two groups.