Publish Date: 
Monday, June 20, 2022 - 16:00

COVID lockdowns not driver of poor mental health 

Don’t blame COVID – your mental health in pregnancy has more to do with quality of life than lockdowns, new research suggests.

The study by Mater Research and the Queensland Family Cohort has found a poor quality of life was the major contributor to poor mental health in expectant and new mums and their partners during the height of the pandemic.

The study findings have been published in the journal BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth.

Lead investigator and director of Mater Research's Queensland Family Cohort study, TRI-based Professor Vicki Clifton, said the study of more than 470 Queensland families provided a valuable insight into the importance of mental health support during unprecedented times.

“There has been a widespread assumption that COVID was driving mental health issues, but our research shows a person’s quality of life was far more influential in mums or their partners developing severe mental health symptoms during pregnancy or after the baby is born,” Professor Clifton said.

“We observed that quality of life which considers living standards, resilience, health and relationships during lockdown had the biggest effect on a families mental health. We found no reduction in depression or stress during lockdown, but severe anxiety  (like dry mouth, difficulty in breathing, and trembling hands) more than halved in pregnant and new mums compared to the pre-COVID-19 subgroup.

“When lockdown was lifted stress levels were reduced by 70 per cent. This might be because stressful lockdown activities such as working from home while also home schooling, or managing a newborn in isolation, were resolved when restrictions lifted, however this needs to be further investigated.”

Professor Clifton said the findings should influence public health spending on mental health.

“Identifying the huge role quality of life has on mental health should make it a central consideration for public health agencies when considering how to direct limited mental health resources towards more vulnerable groups,” Professor Clifton said.

The research was funded by The Lott.

The study findings can be accessed in the journal BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. 

The article has been republished from the Mater website.