BACKGROUND: Little is known about the longer-term impact of the Covid-19 pandemic beyond the first months of 2020, particularly for people with pre-existing mental health disorders. Studies including pre-pandemic data from large psychiatric cohorts are scarce.
METHODS: Between April 2020 and February 2021, twelve successive online questionnaires were distributed among participants of the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety, Netherlands Study of Depression in Older Persons, and Netherlands Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Association Study (N = 1714, response rate 62%). Outcomes were depressive symptoms, anxiety, worry, loneliness, perceived mental health impact of the pandemic, fear of Covid-19, positive coping, and happiness. Using linear mixed models we compared trajectories between subgroups with different pre-pandemic chronicity of disorders and healthy controls.
RESULTS: Depressive, anxiety and worry symptoms were stable since April-May 2020 whereas happiness slightly decreased. Furthermore, positive coping steadily decreased and loneliness increased - exceeding pre-Covid and April-May 2020 levels. Perceived mental health impact and fear of Covid-19 fluctuated in accordance with national Covid-19 mortality rate changes. Absolute levels of all outcomes were poorer with higher chronicity of disorders, yet trajectories did not differ among subgroups.
LIMITATIONS: The most vulnerable psychiatric groups may have been underrepresented and results may not be generalizable to lower income countries.
CONCLUSIONS: After a year, levels of depressive and worry symptoms remained higher than before the pandemic in healthy control groups, yet not in psychiatric groups. Nevertheless, persistent high symptoms in psychiatric groups and increasing loneliness in all groups are specific points of concern for mental health care professionals.