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Our ability to recognize the emotional states of others, particularly non-verbally, is essential for meaningful social interactions and interpersonal relationships. Some people are more attuned and sensitive to nonverbal displays of emotions than others and this difference appears to have an impact on our response to and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A recent study published in the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science surveyed people from Germany, Switzerland, and Australia (N = 469) within the first two weeks of lockdown. Participants completed an emotion recognition task and were asked about their current emotional wellbeing and responses to COVID-19 related media coverage. They found that an ability to correctly recognize the emotions of others through facial expressions and sounds was associated with fewer negative emotions and less emotional burden during the shutdown. Greater emotion recognition did not predict more positive feels, simply less negative feelings. Furthermore, the relationship was mediated by the amount of COVID-19 related media a person consumed; that is, people with higher emotional recognition abilities consumed less COVID news, which led them to feel less negative. Those who weren’t as good at recognizing nonverbal emotions in others still felt less negatively if they adapted certain emotion regulation strategies, like reappraising their situation.
The takeaway: Knowing how you respond to others might help you figure out the right coping strategies for you during this period of social isolation.
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Throughout time and place, music maintained an important place in our lives because of how it makes us feel good. Two recent preprints found evidence that musical activities (both playing and listening to music) was also beneficial for wellbeing during the early-stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. In both studies, people from all over the world, including countries in Western Europe, South America, North America, and Asia, completed online, self-report surveys that asked about their current activities, goals, personality, and basic demographic information. Music was found to be more effective than similar enjoyable activities like eating, reading, exercising, and watching TV, for achieving certain wellness goals, such as maintaining a positive mood, venting negative emotions and connecting with one’s self. This link between music and wellbeing was for the most part, persisted across gender, age, and culture. Furthermore, the hours people spent engaging with musical activities during the pandemic was associated with less distress and less depression, which again, was not found with other, similar activities. These findings suggest that for many people, musical engagement during times of crisis is a good way of maintaining and promoting wellbeing.
You can read more from these two manuscripts here. As they are preprints, they are still under peer review, so keep in mind that some details may change upon publication.
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Doctors have warned that COVID-19 can have long-lasting, psychiatric consequences, caused by the stress of social isolation, concerns about being infected or infecting others, as well as by the immune response to the virus itself.
A recent paper published in October assessed rates of PTSD, anxiety, and depression in patients who have recovered from COVID-19. At one month after treatment, just over half of patients sampled reported experiencing at least one mental health issue and 28% could be classified as experiencing PTSD, 31% for depression, 42% for anxiety, and 40% for insomnia. Unsurprisingly, patients with previous psychiatric diagnoses had higher rates of post-COVID mental illness. Moreover, patients treated in a hospital, rather than at home, actually showed decreased anxiety and sleep disturbances and the longer a patient stayed in the hospital for treatment, the lower the rates of the follow-up assessment. Interestingly, women reported suffered from more anxiety and depression post treatment more so than men.
Follow-up studies in the months and years to come will be needed to assess the long-term psychiatric impact of COVID-19, but the current results suggest that assessing symptoms of mental health in COVID-19 patients is necessary for reducing the disease burden, particularly in women with previous psychiatric conditions.
Read more here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889159120316068
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In a recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Andre Kalil (University of Nebraska Medical Center) and colleagues administered a combination of two drugs: remdesivir and baricitinib to 515 patients hospitalized with moderate or severe COVID-19 symptoms. The control group consisting of 518 patients, received the drug remdesivir and a placebo. The patients who received the combination of both drugs recovered one day earlier than the control group. The mortality rate was also lower in the group that received both drugs (5.1%) compared to the control group (7.8%) that received remedesivir alone.
The recovery time was further reduced in patients who were receiving non-invasive ventilation at the time of drug treatment. In these patients, median recovery time took 10 days compared to control group, where it took 18 days. The combination of remdesivir and baricitinib performed far superior to remdesivir alone, especially in patients who are on non-invasive ventilation.
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When wide scale lockdowns began in the US as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic, experts in psychiatry quickly began to worry of the negative impact of social isolation and stress on mental health. In order to appropriately allocate resources and create effective health-care interventions, it’s important to know 1) the mental health conditions of the general public in the US and 2) the factors that are associated with poorer mental health as a result of the pandemic.
A recent study by researchers at Penn State University assessed self-reported changes in Depression, Anxiety, and Stress during the first months of the COVID-19 Pandemic in the United States (April 20 - May 22). They found that people more inclined to ruminate expressed greater stress and anxiety throughout this time period, but that people with greater social support reported less symptoms of depression. Also, adherence to national health guidelines regarding the pandemic was associated with reduced stress throughout the time period. Interestingly, despite the association between age and COVID-19 mortality, older individuals reported less stress, depression, and anxiety. The results suggest focusing public health interventions on the positive mental health outcomes of adhering to health guidelines and developing effective coping strategies that do not involve rumination, particularly in younger adults.
Read more here: https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/17/17/6315
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Margaret Keenan becomes the first person in the world to receive Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine. While this is very encouraging, the success of any vaccine is greatly dependent on the reproductive number (Rt) of the virus. Lower Rt numbers indicate low virus spread in the population.
A recent study co-authored by Dr. Rochelle Walensky, published in the Journal of health affairs, shows that a low efficacy vaccine (25%) administered to a population with low Rt numbers, is more successful in controlling the virus compared to a vaccine with much higher efficacy (75%) administered at the time when Rt numbers are higher in the population. The Rt numbers can be lowered by following social distancing, wearing masks and avoiding large social gatherings. The success of Covid-19 vaccine requires ongoing commitment of each one of us to follow these preventative measures.