SA is involved in a massive global study of the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic – and you can play your part | Instant News

The Covid-19 pandemic is a dual crisis: as much as a virus is a global threat to physical health, it also quickly becomes a challenge for mental health. And, as hard as we might during this strange time, the effects of locking and quarantine can be very difficult for those who don’t have a strong support system. By the end of March, more than 100 countries around the world had made full or partial lockdowns, BBC notes.

Collaborative Results Study on Health and Function during the Infection Period (COH-FIT) is currently conducting studies which measures the impact of a pandemic on the physical and mental health of people around the world. This is the largest global study of its kind, and is being launched by more than 200 international investigators, led by Professor Christoph Correll from the US / Germany, and Dr. Marco Solmi from Italy.

Through the survey, this research aims to gather information from more than 100,000 participants from more than 40 countries and six continents. In South Africa, this study was approved by the Stellenbosch University Health Research Ethics Committee and led by Professor Soraya Seedat and Georgina Spies. Health24 chatted with Dr. Spies about this research.

Health crisis caused by Covid-19: Why this research is so important

Both locking and pandemic have undesirable negative consequences, Spies explained, and said that it could be said to have a severe short-term and long-term impact on the mental health of the world’s population.

“It is very important that we detect and treat psychiatric symptoms in people with Covid-19 and their contacts. The SARS outbreak in 2003 has been called a mental health disaster. Research shows that 30 months after the SARS outbreak, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the most common long-term psychiatric condition, followed by a depressive disorder. About 60% of survivors meet the criteria for psychiatric disorders.

“This highlights the importance of addressing the population-level mental health effects of Covid-19. Attention also needs to be given to risk groups. At present, billions of people around the world are in full or partial locking up, which has been called the ‘world’s biggest psychological experiment’, and is predicted to produce secondary epidemic from fatigue and absence related to stress. “

Increase the risk of mental illness that is expected

Given the stringent steps taken by the government during the Covid-19 crisis, Spies said that not only is an increased risk of new episodes of mental illness expected, but that health professionals also expect an increased risk of recurrence in those who have pre-existing mental illnesses. . Financial stress is a major challenge for millions of people during the closure, and Spies said that because of the economic crisis caused by the pandemic, we can also expect negative mental health consequences.

“We know of research that severe economic recession has been linked to psychological levels of population stress, including the emergence, and worsening, moods, anxiety and disorders related to substance and suicidal behavior.

The spy also mentioned research which shows that during other epidemics such as SARS, MERS, H1N1 and Ebola, there was a significant and long-lasting psychological impact on quarantine, which in turn contributed to subsequent effects such as symptoms of post-traumatic stress, depression, and alcohol abuse, among others. “As with other mass traumatic events in countries around the world, Covid-19 is expected to produce PTSD in the proportion of South Africans,” Spies added.

Strong possibility of targeted therapy

The resources needed to deal with the mental health consequences of this virus will likely place additional burdens on the mental and physical health system that is already limited in resources, said Spies. The study’s researchers, therefore, aim to help identify potential therapeutic targets to prevent poor health outcomes, and also to increase the chances of better outcomes in susceptible individuals. After the data is collected, researchers will then be able to determine where resources must be allocated to make the biggest difference.

“Interventions for the general population and for vulnerable groups such as health workers, women, youth, the elderly and mentally ill, refugees, migrants and people with disabilities are needed during locking up and through various stages of a pandemic. A comprehensive set of multi-sectoral interventions will be needed in this country. This intervention must target mental health, well-being, and resilience, “Spies explained.

Developed countries vs. developing countries: impact differences

Although developed countries like the US and Italy were among the hardest hit during this pandemic, the impact is expected to be a greater disaster for developing countries. Spies explained:

“More than 50% of South Africans live below the poverty line. Even with a government-led intervention package aimed at reducing the negative economic impact of Covid-19 in South Africa, the economic impact will be enormous. There is no conclusive evidence yet, but poor South Africans tend to suffer disproportionate physical and mental health, and the social and economic consequences of this virus. ”

How long will the COH-FIT study take

Researchers will gather data to assess the acute effects of the pandemic and related quarantine actions during Covid-19 developing, Spies told us, adding that this research will gather information now, as well as six and 12 months after the pandemic is declared by WHO, so they can assess the effects chronic in the population.

“We must not forget the potentially widespread mental health effects of this epidemic,” Spies said.

To help the research team gather data, please take the survey at

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Image: Getty / damircudic

Zakiyah Ebrahim

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