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ESRA 2023 Glance Program

All time references are in CEST

Mental health as social indicator in times of crisis

Session Organisers Dr Kathrin Gärtner (FH Wiener Neustadt)
Mr Stefan Dressler-Stross (FH Wiener Neustadt)
Dr Thomas Leoni (FH Wiener Neustadt)
Professor Ivo Ponocny (Modul University Vienna)
TimeWednesday 19 July, 14:00 - 15:00
Room U6-20

The negative impact of social distancing and other measures implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have increased public awareness for mental health and, in particular, the mental well-being of children and adolescents. Current developments and increasing levels of uncertainty (war, political instability and scarcity of resources) intensify the pressure on individuals and are most likely to threaten their mental health. To investigate such claims, it is important to firstly, gain insights into the valid measuring of mental health and secondly, explore the relationship with other measures to determine mental health’s eligibility and suitability as a social indicator in times of crisis.
In their action plan till 2020 the WHO stressed the need for evidence and research regarding valid measurements and implementations of mental health (2013). Some large-scale social surveys (for example the European Health Interview Survey) attempt to measure mental health and some surveys especially address influences on mental health caused by COVID-19 (for example Eurofound’s “Living, working and COVID19”), while other surveys gather data concerning subjective well-being and general life satisfaction. A recent scoping review by the Robert Koch Institute (2021) resulted in a total of 192 potential indicators of mental health. This vast number of possibilities obviously needs further research.
For this session we encourage contributions that address different ways to measure mental health (e.g. short scales) and experiences gathered in social surveys addressing – both primarily and not – mental health. We are especially interested in topics such as: mental health scales as survey mode, interviewer effects, different measures for different impairments and well-being as proxies for mental health, and relationships between these variables in a general population.

Keywords: social indicators, mental health, well-being


Pandemic Extent or Closeness? How the COVID-19 Pandemic Influences Health Reporting Behaviors

Mr Patrick Lazarevič (Vienna Institute of Demography) - Presenting Author

Background: 100 years after the 1918 flu pandemic, the COVID-19 pandemic constituted an unprecedented health crisis on a global scale. Disproportionately affecting the elderly, it caused uncertainty and concern for aging societies in general and the elderly in particular. From a methodological standpoint, this situation offered a unique opportunity to investigate the influence of health crises and threats on health assessments. Building on this idea, we investigated the influence of the pandemic's extent and closeness on health reporting behavior.

Data & Methods: The analyses of this paper are based on data of the German-Austrian Cloister Study collected from October 2020 to March 2021 which were linked to administrative data on each country's number of daily new infections and deaths on the day of the interview. Using generalized structural equation modeling, we investigated the indirect effect of the pandemic's extent and closeness on reporting behavior regarding self-rated health mediated by COVID-19 anxiety and mental health by age group. Reporting behavior was isolated by controlling for physical health prior to the analyses.

Results: The number of new infections or deaths in their country did not significantly affect respondents' COVID-19 anxiety. However, an infection in the respondent's close environment did significantly influence COVID-19 anxiety in respondents younger than 80 while older respondents' worries were present independently of self-reported infections in their social network. In general, COVID-19 anxiety had a negative impact on mental health in both groups which, in turn, negatively influenced reporting behavior with regard to self-rated health.

Conclusions: As shown with the example of COVID-19, health crises and threats indirectly influence health reporting behaviors via mental health and health anxiety. Given that the extent of health anxiety appears to correlate with the (assumed) individual

Mental and Substance Use Disorders Prevalence Study: A National Mental Health Screening Effort during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Dr Heidi Guyer (RTI International) - Presenting Author

The Mental and Substance Use Disorders Prevalence Study (MDPS) was designed to provide national estimates of serious mental and substance use disorders in the U.S. Data collection was conducted over two years during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the MDPS was designed prior to the pandemic and not intended to estimate the impact of the pandemic on mental health conditions, the findings are informative for population-based mental health screening efforts. A national address-based sample of households across the U.S. was invited to participate in the study by first completing a household rostering questionnaire. Up to two adults per household were then selected to complete a mental health screening interview. Close to 30,000 adults completed a screening interview that included the random assignment to one of two validated mental health screening instruments and questions on their COVID-19 exposure and impact. Web, mail and phone modes were implemented initially, followed by in-person interviews in the final 12 months of data collection. Seventy percent of screenings were completed online, 21% in person, 8% by phone and <1% by mail. The screening interview averaged 15.4 minutes. Ten percent of respondents were categorized as endorsing symptoms related to the most severe disorders measured (i.e. schizophrenia), 38% in the moderate severity strata (i.e. depression, generalized anxiety disorder, among others), and 52% did not endorse symptoms consistent with the disorders measured. We will discuss operational outcomes of the screening study, the COVID-19 experiences reported by respondents, and the mental health disorder symptoms and conditions reported in each of the screening instruments. The lessons learned conducting this complex study during a pandemic, and still managing to achieve the target goals and provide a rich data source on issues of international importance, is a major accomplishment and

Tracking changes in mental health measures using a longitudinal mobile phone survey: Mexico’s ENCOVID-19 Longitudinal

Mr Victor Perez-Hernandez (Universidad Iberoamericana) - Presenting Author
Dr Graciela Teruel (Universidad Iberoamericana)
Dr Pablo Gaitan (Universidad Iberoamericana)

On the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we started a repeated cross-sectional mobile phone survey to track changes in mental health, as well as its associations with indicators of economic and labour market outcomes. In an extension of this study, we follow a subset of 1,468 individuals in 2020, 2021 and 2022 (a retention rate of 58% from 2020 to 2021, and 63% from 2021 to 2022) to collect data on several well-being aspects, including their mental health (we used the GAD scale for anxiety and the CESD for depression). We present the results on both outcomes, exploring on their consistency and reliability between waves, so as to know how well our instrument captured changes in anxiety and depression over the course of the first 2 years of the pandemic. We found that both scales are reliable and valid with high sensitivities (0.87 in the case of the GAD scale, and 0.78 in the case of the CESD scale). The prevalence of anxiety decreased considerably (from 32% in 2020 to 15% in 2022). However, 16% of those who presented depressive symptoms in 2020 were still presenting them in 2022, and the persistence was higher among women and people in households with children