Life satisfaction and mental health after the COVID‑19 outbreak: Identifying their changes and linked characteristics in a longitudinal community-based study
Background. The COVID‑19 pandemic has had profound effects on many aspects of life, but most research has been focused on extreme reactions and psychopathology. The direct and indirect psychological and social effects of the COVID‑19 pandemic are pervasive and include negative consequences on individuals’ mental health and life satisfaction. The literature has reported that both life satisfaction and mental health had been negatively impacted at the beginning of the COVID‑19 outbreak. However, there is a paucity of research on the medium- and long-term impacts of the pandemic on life satisfaction and mental health. There is even less research on how pre-pandemic psychosocial factors, as well as the COVID‑19 related factors, are associated with changes in life satisfaction and mental health during the pandemic.
Objectives. This 4-year project examines how the COVID‑19 pandemic influences life satisfaction and mental health over time. Quantitative and qualitative analyses of an existing population-based cohort -the Zone d’Épidémiologie Psychiatrique du Sud-Ouest de Montréal (ZEPSOM) cohort (N=1386) will be used to deliver the following objectives: (1) We aim to examine the medium and long-term impacts of the pandemic on life satisfaction and mental health. (2) We will test the roles of pre-pandemic psychosocial factors (including social support, coping strategies, socioeconomic status, and pre-pandemic stressors) in life satisfaction/ mental health after the COVID‑19 outbreak. (3) We will test the moderating effects of the COVID‑19 related factors in the associations between these psychosocial factors and life satisfaction/ mental health after the COVID‑19 outbreak.
Methods: We propose to have two follow-ups of this existing cohort to assess changes in mental health and life satisfaction related to the pandemic. The ZEPSOM cohort (aged 15 to 80 yrs) has been followed for 14 years and is one of a few population-based longitudinal cohorts well established to prospectively study the risk and protective factors influencing mental health, examine the impacts of psychological and sociological factors on mental health outcomes and understand the relationship between these psychosocial factors and psychopathology. Before the pandemic, the ZEPSOM cohort had collected information on a wide range of psychosocial factors, including life satisfaction, mental health, stressful life events, socioeconomic status, social support, and coping strategies.
Expertise: The project team includes researchers in psychology, sociology, epidemiology, and population health, with extensive experience in research on positive mental health and life satisfaction.
Significance and Impact: ZEPSOM provides a unique opportunity to have a holistic and comprehensive understanding of how pandemic and psychosocial factors before the pandemic impact life satisfaction and mental health after the COVID‑19 outbreak that cannot be easily addressed by cross-sectional or short-term prospective cohort designs. This project will also provide robust evidence about the medium and long-term impacts of the COVID‑19 pandemic on life satisfaction and mental health. The findings could enhance current health promotion programs by helping to better target and support most affected and vulnerable populations, given the limited resources available, but also equip (current and future) professionals with new programs, tools, and campaigns that can rapidly and effectively respond to the intermediate and long-term effects of the pandemic on mental health and life satisfaction relevant for the current as well as potential future pandemics.