Background: The outbreak and rapid spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) not only caused an adverse impact on physical health, but also brought about mental health problems among the public.
Methods: To assess the causal impact of COVID-19 on psychological changes in China, we constructed a city-level panel data set based on the expressed sentiment in the contents of 13 million geotagged tweets on Sina Weibo, the Chinese largest microblog platform.
Results Applying a difference-in-differences approach, we found a significant deterioration in mental health status after the occurrence of COVID-19. We also observed that this psychological effect faded out over time during our study period and was more pronounced among women, teenagers and older adults. The mental health impact was more likely to be observed in cities with low levels of initial mental health status, economic development, medical resources and social security.
Conclusions Our findings may assist in the understanding of mental health impact of COVID-19 and yield useful insights into how to make effective psychological interventions in this kind of sudden public health event.
Scopus Subject Areas
- Applied Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- mental health
- sentiment analysis
- social media