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Comorbidity and COVID-19: Investigating the Relationship between Medical and Psychological Well-being

2021-04-16, Stafford, Owen, Berry, Anna, Taylor, Laura K., Wearen, Sinead, Prendergast, Cian, Murphy, Eddie, Shevlin, Mark, McHugh, Louise, Carr, Alan, Burke, Tom

Objective: The unprecedented occurrence of a global pandemic is accompanied by both physical and psychological burdens that may impair quality of life. Research relating to COVID-19 aims to determine the effects of the pandemic on vulnerable populations who are at high risk of developing negative health or psychosocial outcomes. Having an ongoing medical condition during a pandemic may lead to greater psychological distress. Increased psychological distress may be due to preventative public health measures (e.g. lockdown), having an ongoing medical condition, or a combination of these factors. Methods: This study analyses data from an online cross-sectional national survey of adults in Ireland and investigates the relationship between comorbidity and psychological distress. Those with a medical condition (n=128) were compared to a control group without a medical condition (n=128) and matched according to age, gender, annual income, education, and work status during COVID-19. Participants and data were obtained during the first public lockdown in Ireland (27.03.2020–08.06.2020). Results: Individuals with existing medical conditions reported significantly higher levels of anxiety (p<.01) and felt less gratitude (p≤.001). Exploratory analysis indicates that anxiety levels were significantly associated with illness perceptions specific to COVID-19. Post-hoc analysis reveal no significant difference between the number of comorbidities and condition type (e.g. respiratory disorders). Conclusion: This research supports individualised supports for people with ongoing medical conditions through the COVID-19 pandemic, and has implications for the consideration of follow-up care specifically for mental health. Findings may also inform future public health policies and post-vaccine support strategies for vulnerable populations.