Depression symptoms and the perception of public health restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic in Saudi Arabia: The protective effect of sense of control
Kornbrot, Diane E.
Msetfi, Rachel M.
The psychological impact of public health restrictions may play a role in the increased depression levels reported since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Data further suggest that people's sense of personal control has been reduced during the pandemic also producing psychological distress. This study aimed to test whether perceptions of public health restrictions predict depression under pandemic conditions and if the sense of control can serve as a protective factor. For this cross-sectional study, 641 residents in Saudi Arabia over the age of 17 years were recruited between November and December of 2020 to complete an online survey. The survey assessed depression levels (Beck Depression Inventory, BDI), the sense of control and perceptions of public health restrictions. Demographic information was also collected. Depression levels were higher compared to previous samples (d = 0.12). The number of restrictions perceived as distressing strongly predicted the probability of high BDI scores, β=0.92, with higher sense of control predicting lower levels of depression (constraints, β=-0.50, mastery, β=-0.71). A strong sense of control significantly reduced the impact of the perception of restrictions on depression. These results suggest that the perception of public health restrictions is part of the reason for increased levels of depression during the pandemic. A strong sense control reduced the impact of restrictions on depression. It is therefore possible that simple interventions enhancing the sense of control, such as the availability of choice, could support mental health in restricted situations.