Topic: Disasters, terror and stress management

Worry and mental health in the Covid-19 pandemic: vulnerability factors in the general Norwegian population

Blix, I., Birkeland, M. S., & Thoresen, S. (2021). Worry and mental health in the Covid-19 pandemic: vulnerability factors in the general Norwegian population. BMC Public Health. doi:10.1186/s12889-021-10927-1

There is an urgent need for knowledge about the mental health consequences of the ongoing pandemic.



The aim of this study was to identify vulnerability factors for psychological distress and reduced life satisfaction in the general population. Furthermore, we aimed to assess the role of COVID-related worries for psychological distress and life satisfaction.


 A presumed representative sample for the Norwegian population (n = 1041, response rate = 39.9%) responded to a web-survey in May 2020. The participants were asked about potential vulnerability factors including increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 (underlying illness, older age), socioeconomic disadvantage (living alone, unemployment, economic problems), and pre-existing mental health vulnerability (recent exposure to violence, previous mental health challenges). Additional measures included COVID-related worry, psychological distress, and life satisfaction.


 More than one out of four reported current psychological distress over the threshold for clinically significant symptoms. Socioeconomic disadvantages, including living alone and pre-existing economic challenges, and pre-existing mental health vulnerabilities, including recent exposure to violence and previous mental health problems, were associated with a higher level of psychological distress and a lower level of life satisfaction. A higher level of COVID-related worry was significantly associated with a higher level of psychological distress, and a lower level of life satisfaction, even when adjusting for all the vulnerability factors.


 This study identified several vulnerability factors for mental health problems in the pandemic. Individuals recently exposed to violence and individuals with pre-existing mental health problems are at particular risk. Worrying about the consequences of the pandemic contributes negatively to current mental health. However, worry cannot explain the excess distress in vulnerable groups. Future research should focus on how COVID-related strains contribute to mental health problems for vulnerable groups.