A new study out of the United Kingdom has found that individuals who abided by COVID rules have worse mental health compared to those who didn’t. According to the study, conducted by academics at Bangor University in Wales, people who followed pandemic restrictions closely are most likely to suffer from “stress, anxiety and depression.”
The study, published through the Institute for the Psychology of Elite Performance, analyzed the compliance of 1,700 people in Wales during the first wave of lockdowns in the United Kingdom from March to September 2020. Researchers then measured their levels of stress, anxiety, and depression every two weeks between February to May of this year.
Throughout the study, participants were asked questions about their attitudes toward COVID and how they responded to it during the first wave of lockdowns that severely limited all social activities and gatherings.
Although researchers argue there were upsides to taking precautions towards catching COVID, they also found it also had “negative consequences on people’s well-being and recovery.”
The study concluded that some people, regarded as having “communal personalities,” who strictly obeyed COVID protocols had a more difficult time transitioning to post-lockdown life without hearing advice from the government or health officials. They were also less likely to resume “normal” activities and behaviors overall.
“Throughout the pandemic, messaging campaigns were designed to ensure people continued to follow the rules. But there was no messaging campaign as we came out of the pandemic to help everyone safely transition back to normality,” explained Dr. Marley Willegers in The Guardian.
“Without this, certain personality types have retained infection prevention behavior and anxiety that undermines their mental well-being,” he added. “The more individuals complied with health advice during lockdown, the worse their well-being post-lockdown.”
In contrast, people with “agentic” personalities, who are often more independent, competitive, and like to have more agency over their lives, were not as likely to suffer the same mental health conditions.
The Centre for Mental Health has labeled the results of the study “deeply disturbing” while reiterating the findings.
“The finding that people who complied with pandemic restrictions are more likely to have poorer mental health three years on is deeply disturbing,” said Andy Bell, the Centre’s CEO. “The fear, loss and trauma created by the pandemic are having a lasting impact on many people’s mental health. For some, this may have been exacerbated by the loss of social solidarity from seeing others not complying with the same restrictions.”
Sharing its sentiments, Willegers proposed that the government take different personality types into consideration when promoting health campaigns “designed to change people’s behavior” in the future.
“Future government health advertising campaigns designed to change people’s behavior should factor in the different personality types in the population,” he said.
“Campaigns need to highlight the personal costs and benefits involved, not just people’s responsibility to others.”