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Considerable stress among people subjected to isolation

News: Apr 09, 2020

What happens to us when we have to endure forced quarantine? Leif Denti, researcher at the Department of Psychology, believes that the negative consequences of long-term enforced isolation are so serious that many things indicate that Sweden has made the right choice in opting for a less severe strategy in attempting to stop the spread of Covid-19. This is shown by recent research.

– You should be careful when it comes to placing people in quarantine during virus outbreaks. Within as little as ten days, there are negative health effects: low mood, depression, frustration, confusion, various kinds of stress, rumination and exaggerated fear of infection, says Leif Denti, referring to an article in The Lancet from the end of February. The article is authored by a research team at King’s College London who have reviewed previous research into the subject. Above all, they have analysed studies into how people’s psychological health was affected by being in enforced quarantine in connection with outbreaks of Ebola and SARS.

– In these types of situations, particularly if we end up in quarantine, there is also a craving for information. You wonder how long it will last, but receive no definitive answers. And the virus itself is not something tangible; it is something stealthy that we cannot see. In such situations, it is easy to start ruminating and creating fantasies about what will happen. Unfortunately, the internet exacerbates the confusion, as it is riddled with inaccuracies. At best, it involves people’s own home-made theories, at worst it is disinformation that may be intentionally harmful. The situation is not helped by the fact that the authorities do not know what will happen either.

Being in enforced quarantine for an extended period of time is an unpleasant experience, the researchers argue. Separation from loved ones, uncertainty about the status of the illness and the level of infection, as well as boredom and mounting anger can have dramatic consequences. Suicides have been reported, as have acts of violence that led to criminal charges. Any benefits of mandatory mass quarantine must therefore be carefully weighed against the potential psychological costs.

However, there is another option. Appealing to people’s altruism and good will.
– The researchers argue that the negative psychological effects can be ameliorated by people putting themselves in voluntary quarantine, which I agree with.

But is that not the method Sweden opted for?
– Yes precisely, and I think that we have done well, says Leif Denti.

In the long term he believes that the corona crisis will have other, more far-reaching psychological consequences caused by a collapsed economy, where people lose their jobs, income and careers.

– In the article, the researchers identified the group of people who were already suffering from mental ill health before the virus outbreak. What will happen with them? There is a considerable risk that the number of suicides will rise. The same applies to domestic violence. When households lose their income, domestic violence increases.

The SARS outbreak in Canada in 2003 led to considerably higher levels of post-traumatic stress and depression among low-income households than among people who were in a better financial position, according to the article in The Lancet.

– One thing is certain: in a financial crisis it is always the vulnerable who suffer the most, says Leif Denti.

Read the article in The Lancet: The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid review of the evidence

Photo: Anna von Brömssen


Originally published on: medarbetarportalen.gu.se

Page Manager: Ann-Sofie Sten|Last update: 9/1/2011

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