Survey: Coping strategies key to neutral, positive psychological effects from COVID-19

April 28, 2021
A recent online survey sought to understand the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and if it could potentially heighten levels of psychological disorders such as anxiety. Researchers found just under half of people with MS reported a neutral COVID-19 effect, and over a third reported a negative effect. Some demographic and MS-related factors (younger age, progressive types of MS and presence of psychological symptoms) can predict a negative COVID-19 effect. Both emotion-focused and problem-focused coping strategies were instrumental in those reporting a neutral or positive effect from the COVID-19 pandemic.

People with multiple sclerosis are more vulnerable to psychological disorders such as anxiety. Consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic could potentially heighten these levels because of the effect on health and healthcare. There are conflicting reports about whether anxiety has increased or remained the same during the COVID-19 pandemic. An online survey conducted by researchers at the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, University of Reading, in Reading, UK, was completed by 324 people with MS during the COVID-19 pandemic to identify the level of COVID-19 effect (positive, neutral, or negative) and the reasons why they felt this way. 

The findings show just under half of people who completed the survey reported a neutral effect, with a negative effect reported by slightly more than a third of participants. Having a progressive diagnosis of MS, being younger, and having psychological symptoms predicted a negative effect. 

Coping strategies also appear to play a part in the COVID-19 experience for people with MS with active, problem-focused strategies being an approach used by nearly all who reported a positive effect and more than a third of people who reported a neutral effect. 

These findings can be used to direct support to the most vulnerable people within this population as well as those with other neurological conditions.

The study was published in the journal Neurology and Therapy.

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