First study on the health conditions of adults one month into COVID-19 lockdown

8 April 2020
A new preliminary study provides some of the earliest pieces of evidence that the COVID-19 outbreak affected people mentally as well as physically.

The preliminary results reveal adults in locations more affected by COVID-19 had distress, and lower physical and mental health, and life satisfaction.

Researchers from the University of Adelaide, Tongji University and University of Sydney surveyed 369 adults living in 64 cities in China after they had lived under one-month of confinement measures in February this year.

Led by Dr Stephen Zhang from the University of Adelaide, the study identifies adults with existing health conditions and those who stopped working as most at risk of worse mental and physical health.

“As many parts of the world are only just beginning to go into lockdown, we examined the impact of the one-month long lockdown on people’s health, distress and life satisfaction,” said Dr Zhang.

“The study offers somewhat of a ‘crystal ball’ into the mental health of Australian residents once they have been in the lockdown for one month.”

More than a quarter of the participants worked at the office during the lockdown period while 38 percent worked from home and 25 percent stopped work due to the outbreak.

Published in Psychiatry Research, the study suggests adults living in locations more affected by COVID-19 reported negative life satisfaction only among adults with chronic medical issues but not for those without existing health issues.

Work can provide people with a sense of purpose and routine, which is particularly important during this global pandemic.
Professor Andreas Rauch, University of Sydney Business School

Co-author on the study, Professor Andreas Rauch from the University of Sydney Business School said; “We weren’t surprised that adults who stopped working reported worse mental and physical health conditions as well as distress. Work can provide people with a sense of purpose and routine, which is particularly important during this global pandemic.”

Study participants who exercised for more than 2.5 hours per day reported worse life satisfaction in more affected locations while those who exercised for half an hour or less during the lockdown reported positive life satisfaction.

“We were really surprised by the findings around exercising hours because it appears to be counter-intuitive,” said lead author Dr Zhang.

“It’s possible adults who exercised less could better justify or rationalise their inactive lifestyles in more severely affected cities. More research is needed but these early findings suggest we need to pay attention to more physically active individuals, who might be more frustrated by the restrictions.”

The peer-reviewed research, ‘Unprecedented disruption of lives and work: Health, distress and life satisfaction of working adults in China one month into the COVID-19 outbreak’, is available online.


The authors declare that they have no competing interests. 

The data collection was funded by the Chinese National Funding of Social Sciences (Grant number: 1509093).

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