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The outbreak of COVID-19 generated severe emotional reactions, and restricted mobility was a crucial measure to reduce the spread of the virus. This study describes the changes in public emotional reactions and mobility patterns in the Chinese population during the COVID-19 outbreak.
We collected data on public emotional reactions in response to the outbreak through Weibo, the Chinese Twitter, between 1st January and 31st March 2020. Using anonymized location-tracking information, we analyzed the daily mobility patterns of approximately 90% of Sichuan residents.
There were three distinct phases of the emotional and behavioral reactions to the COVID-19 outbreak. The alarm phase (19th–26th January) was a restriction-free period, characterized by few new daily cases, but a large amount public negative emotions [the number of negative comments per Weibo post increased by 246.9 per day, 95% confidence interval (CI) 122.5–371.3], and a substantial increase in self-limiting mobility (from 45.6% to 54.5%, changing by 1.5% per day, 95% CI 0.7%–2.3%). The epidemic phase (27th January–15th February) exhibited rapidly increasing numbers of new daily cases, decreasing expression of negative emotions (a decrease of 27.3 negative comments per post per day, 95% CI −40.4 to −14.2), and a stabilized level of self-limiting mobility. The relief phase (16th February–31st March) had a steady decline in new daily cases and decreasing levels of negative emotion and self-limiting mobility.
During the COVID-19 outbreak in China, the public's emotional reaction was strongest before the actual peak of the outbreak and declined thereafter. The change in human mobility patterns occurred before the implementation of restriction orders, suggesting a possible link between emotion and behavior.
Due to the drastic surge of COVID-19 patients, many countries are considering or already graduating health professional students early to aid professional resources. We aimed to assess outbreak-related psychological distress and symptoms of acute stress reaction (ASR) in health professional students and to characterize individuals with potential need for interventions.
We conducted a prospective cohort study of 1442 health professional students at Sichuan University, China. At baseline (October 2019), participants were assessed for childhood adversity, stressful life events, internet addiction, and family functioning. Using multivariable logistic regression, we examined associations of the above exposures with subsequent psychological distress and ASR in response to the outbreak.
Three hundred and eighty-four (26.63%) participants demonstrated clinically significant psychological distress, while 160 (11.10%) met the criterion for a probable ASR. Individuals who scored high on both childhood adversity and stressful life event experiences during the past year were at increased risks of both distress (ORs 2.00–2.66) and probable ASR (ORs 2.23–3.10), respectively. Moreover, internet addiction was associated with elevated risks of distress (OR 2.05, 95% CI 1.60–2.64) and probable ASR (OR 2.15, 95% CI 1.50–3.10). By contrast, good family functioning was associated with decreased risks of distress (OR 0.43, 95% CI 0.33–0.55) and probable ASR (OR 0.48, 95% CI 0.33–0.69). All associations were independent of baseline psychological distress.
Our findings suggest that COVID-19 related psychological distress and high symptoms burden of ASR are common among health professional students. Extended family and professional support should be considered for vulnerable individuals during these unprecedented times.
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