Mental Health & Neurology

    Pandemics & Infectious Diseases

AXA Awards


Coping With the Pandemics: What Works Best to Reduce Anxiety & Depression

Worldwide, the global COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown might increase anxiety and depressive symptoms in individuals. Though health experts recommend several behaviors to cope with such symptoms such as limiting exposure to news about the pandemic, scientific evidence of their efficacy is lacking.
To explore which coping behaviors are associated with a decrease in anxiety and depressive symptoms, Dr. Joaquim Radua, a psychiatrist and statistician at the Spanish Institut d'Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi i Sunyer (IDIBAPS), and his team conducted a pilot survey of 5,000 Spanish adults in late March / early April 2020, just 2 weeks after the lockdown started in Spain. They found that most individuals reported mild-to-moderate anxiety or depressive symptoms and that several behaviors were associated with fewer or less severe symptoms – such as following a healthy/balanced diet, sticking to a routine, limiting exposure to news about COVID-19, and using the opportunity to pursue hobbies. Based on this preliminary evidence, Dr. Radua’s current project, supported by the AXA Research Fund, seeks to investigate the associations between coping behaviors and subsequent anxiety, as well as depressive symptoms and their trajectories, and also how these associations change as the conditions of the pandemic and lockdown change. For this project, he is following a large representative sample of Spanish adults for one year. They will be asked to complete both fortnightly surveys and “random assessments” - in effect, momentary assessments in real-time, to minimize the problems associated with retrospective recall and bias.

The results of this longitudinal study will allow Dr. Radua to produce evidence-based, clear, and specific recommendations on effective coping behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown. These recommendations will then be broadly shared with health organizations and providers as well as public policymakers so that they can be used to advise and support the public during this exceptional emergency as well as during any subsequent waves or future crises. “It is obviously important to help people with mental disorders”, reports the researcher, “but it is also important to help people with no history of mental illness who are finding it difficult to cope in specific situations. Recommending coping behaviors might help people who are suffering from mild to moderate symptoms of situational anxiety and depression”, he adds. Eventually, the output of Dr. Radua’s project could help millions of people improve their emotional wellbeing during an exceptional emergency.



August Pi i Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute





ORCID Open Researcher and Contributor ID, a unique and persistent identifier to researchers