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COVID-19 has long-term impacts on public mental health, while few research studies incorporate multidimensional methods to thoroughly characterise the psychological profile of general population and little detailed guidance exists for mental health management during the pandemic. This research aims to capture long-term psychological profile of general population following COVID-19 by integrating trajectory modelling approaches, latent trajectory pattern identification and network analyses.
Longitudinal data were collected from a nationwide sample of 18 804 adults in 12 months after COVID-19 outbreak in China. Patient Health Questionnaire-9, Generalised Anxiety Disorder-7 and Insomnia Severity Index were used to measure depression, anxiety and insomnia, respectively. The unconditional and conditional latent growth curve models were fitted to investigate trajectories and long-term predictors for psychological symptoms. We employed latent growth mixture model to identify the major psychological symptom trajectory patterns, and ran sparse Gaussian graphical models with graphical lasso to explore the evolution of psychopathological network.
At 12 months after COVID-19 outbreak, psychological symptoms generally alleviated, and five psychological symptom trajectories with different demographics were identified: normal stable (63.4%), mild stable (15.3%), mild-increase to decrease (11.7%), mild-decrease to increase (4.0%) and moderate/severe stable (5.5%). The finding indicated that there were still about 5% individuals showing consistently severe distress and approximately 16% following fluctuating psychological trajectories, who should be continuously monitored. For individuals with persistently severe trajectories and those with fluctuating trajectories, central or bridge symptoms in the network were mainly ‘motor abnormality’ and ‘sad mood’, respectively. Compared with initial peak and late COVID-19 phase, aftermath of initial peak might be a psychologically vulnerable period with highest network connectivity. The central and bridge symptoms for aftermath of initial peak (‘appetite change’ and ‘trouble of relaxing’) were totally different from those at other pandemic phases (‘sad mood’).
This research identified the overall growing trend, long-term predictors, trajectory classes and evolutionary pattern of psychopathological network of psychological symptoms in 12 months after COVID-19 outbreak. It provides a multidimensional long-term psychological profile of the general population after COVID-19 outbreak, and accentuates the essentiality of continuous psychological monitoring, as well as population- and time-specific psychological management after COVID-19. We believe our findings can offer reference for long-term psychological management after pandemics.
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