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MHCOVID - a living online systematic review of scientific evidence about changes in the prevalence of mental health issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic and containment measures

The project was funded by the Swiss National Foundation (SNF) through the NRP 78 initiative.

We hypothesize that the length and intensity of social isolation and the fear of infection can have important adverse effects on public mental health. However, large-scale evidence is lacking to-date to support or refute this claim. We currently do not know a) what is the prevalence of mental health issues in the general population and subpopulations worldwide during the COVID-19 pandemic, b) whether the intensity of the pandemic and the stringency of measures to contain the pandemic impact on mental health (and if yes, how) c) which population and context characteristics (e.g. sex, age, comorbidities, country) modify the impact of the pandemic on mental health.

We systematically review all studies published worldwide that evaluate the impact of the pandemic on public mental health. Up to February 2022, 117 volunteer trained researchers (doctors, psychologists, statisticians and students) have been involved, screening the literature and extracting data in continuous waves. Up to date, together we have screened more than 40.000 abstracts and extracted data from nearly 300 articles. We present regularly updated summaries of the prevalence of mental health issues during and before the pandemic by country and population. We also present the associations between the intensity of the outbreak (e.g., number of daily cases) and the containment measures (such as lockdown, stringency of social distancing rules) with changes in public mental health.

For full information on MHCOVID (and if you are interested in joining the crowd of reviewers), please visit mhcovid.ispm.unibe.ch/crowd.html or contact the research team via e-mail (natalie.peter@tum.de) or on Twitter: @MH_COVID.

The protocol of the study was registered a-priori in Prospero under the number CRD42020180049 (see here).

In addition to conference and radio pieces, the project so far was presented in an editorial in European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience:

Leucht S, Cipriani A, Furukawa TA, Peter N, Tonia T, Papakonstantinou T, Holloway A, Salanti G. A living meta-ecological study of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health. Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci 271, 219–221 (2021). (Link)

as well as in a commentary in Lancet Psychiatry:

Salanti G, Cipriani A, Furukawa TA, Peter N, Tonia T, Papakonstantinou T, Holloway A, Leucht S. An efficient way to assess the effect of COVID-19 on mental health in the general population. The Lancet Psychiatry 8 (5), e14-e15 (2021). (Link)