3 questions to… Coralie Gandré and Magali Coldefy following the publication of the Issues in Health Economics (249), June 2020: "Inequalities in the Risk of Onset of Psychological Distress during the Lockdown Linked to the Covid-19 Outbreak. First Results of the COCLICO Survey Conducted between 3 and 14 April 2020", written in collaboration with Thierry Rochereau.
An online questionnaire was sent between 3 and 14 April 2020 to a sample of adults representative of the French population living in general households. This questionnaire included a set of twelve questions (General Health Questionnaire with 12 items, GHQ-12) to assess the onset of psychological distress in the short-term based on the identification of recent functional difficulties and the appearance of alarming signs. The onset of psychological distress during the early stages of the lockdown is thus observed in one third of respondents, 12% of whom present severe distress.
If being exposed to the virus is a risk factor for the onset of psychological distress during the lockdown, the conditions and consequences of this lockdown play the most significant role. People with poor social support, those confined in over-crowded housing and those whose financial situation has worsened are at greatest risk of psychological distress. The health crisis also reinforces pre-existing vulnerabilities related to mental health status: women and people who have received mental healthcare treatment in the preceding 12 months are more impacted. People living with a chronic disease are also at risk, which may be related to difficulties in accessing care during the lockdown, which will be explored in subsequent waves of the COCLICO survey.
Our results show that the lockdown had a greater impact on populations that were already vulnerable and reinforced pre-existing inequalities. These results support the need for the development of actions targeted at these populations, whether to facilitate their access to mental health services or to attenuate the social and economic impact of new lockdown measures, should they reoccur. In particular, massive partial unemployment measures seem to have played a protective role. If the worsening of the financial situation following the lockdown is associated with a risk of psychological distress, this is not the case for changes in the professional activity, which include very contrasting realities in terms of keeping one's income.