One virus, four continents, eight countries: An interdisciplinary and international study on the psychosocial impacts of the covid-19 pandemic among adults

Mélissa Généreux*, Philip J. Schluter, Kevin K.C. Hung, Chi Shing Wong, Catherine Pui Yin Mok, Tracey O’sullivan, Marc D. David, Marie Eve Carignan, Gabriel Blouin-Genest, Olivier Champagne-Poirier, Éric Champagne, Natalie Burlone, Zeeshan Qadar, Teodoro Herbosa, Gleisse Ribeiro-Alves, Ronald Law, Virginia Murray, Emily Ying Yang Chan, Nathalie Pignard-Cheynel, Sébastien SalernoGrégoire Lits, Leen D’haenens, David De Coninck, Koenraad Matthys, Mathieu Roy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


The novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic brought about several features that increased the sense of fear and confusion, such as quarantine and financial losses among other stressors, which may have led to adverse psychosocial outcomes. The influence of such stressors took place within a broader sociocultural context that needs to be considered. The objective was to examine how the psychological response to the pandemic varied across countries and identify which risk/protective factors contributed to this response. An online survey was conducted from 29 May 2020–12 June 2020, among a multinational sample of 8806 adults from eight countries/regions (Canada, United States, England, Switzerland, Belgium, Hong Kong, Philippines, New Zealand). Probable generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and major depression episode (MDE) were assessed. The independent role of a wide range of potential factors was examined using multilevel logistic regression. Probable GAD and MDE were indicated by 21.0% and 25.5% of the respondents, respectively, with an important variation according to countries/regions (GAD: 12.2–31.0%; MDE: 16.7–32.9%). When considered together, 30.2% of the participants indicated probable GAD or MDE. Several factors were positively associated with a probable GAD or MDE, including (in descending order of importance) weak sense of coherence (SOC), lower age, false beliefs, isolation, threat perceived for oneself/family, mistrust in authorities, stigma, threat perceived for country/world, financial losses, being a female, and having a high level of information about COVID-19. Having a weak SOC yielded the highest adjusted odds ratio for probable GAD or MDE (3.21; 95% confidence interval (CI): 2.73–3.77). This pandemic is having an impact on psychological health. In some places and under certain circumstances, however, people seem to be better protected psychologically. This is a unique opportunity to evaluate the psychosocial impacts across various sociocultural backgrounds, providing important lessons that could inform all phases of disaster risk management.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8390
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This research was funded by a Canadian Institute of Health Research Operating Grant (OV7-170635).

Funding Information:
This study took place within a broader research project funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. It was reviewed and approved by the Research Ethics Board of the CIUSSS de l’Estrie—CHUS (HEC ref: 2020-3674). The overarching goal of this interdisciplinary and international research project was to better understand how the risk information is delivered and communicated by authorities and media, and how it is received, understood, and used by the public. Using a mixed-method approach, it was composed of three axes, including a repeated cross-sectional online survey, a discourse analysis of mainstream media and social media, and a network analysis to assess how official information flows and circulates across levels of governance. The current study fell within the first axis. The first data collection (i.e., the pilot phase) was conducted between 8 and 11 April 2020 (n = 600 Canadian adults), while Phase 1 of the international survey was conducted from 29 May 2020–12 June 2020, among a much larger sample of adults living in eight different countries or regions, from four continents. The eight countries/regions selected, namely, Canada, the United States of America (USA), England, Switzerland, Belgium, Hong Kong, Philippines, and New Zealand (NZ), represent a vast array of COVID-19 epidemiological situations and sociocultural backgrounds.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Pandemic
  • Psychosocial impacts
  • Sense of coherence


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