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Study explores mental health impacts of pandemic on Costa Ricans

More than two-thirds of Costa Ricans who have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus crisis are exhibiting symptoms of depression, says a study conducted by the State University at a Distance (UNED) and the National University (UNA).

The study, which was sponsored by the Health Ministry and the Social Security System (CCSS), found that job stability is one of the most significant differentiating factors in predicting mental health during the pandemic.

“Those who have a job whose continuity is not in danger, which allows them to meet basic needs and gives them certain benefits for an adequate quality of life, are in a better mental health situation,” the study says.

Lower-income populations reported higher rates of depression and anxiety symptoms, which research coordinator Eva Carazo Vargas says should direct Costa Rica in “the development of campaigns, programs and public policies focused on the mental health of the population.”

The study also attempted to measure people’s fear of Covid-19. Nearly 90% of Costa Ricans aged 15 to 80 expressed some fear of the disease; many (39%) were concerned about its health effects, while 36.4% said they experience fear when seeing news about the pandemic.

The most significant physical manifestations of those fears are chest palpitations (26.4%), difficulty sleeping (18.8%) and hand sweating (18.8%).

“Among those who are in the most critical mental health states, the fear of Covid-19 manifests itself with nervousness and anxiety when watching news or seeing stories on social networks,” the study explains.

Among the study’s recommendations are to:

  • Maintain a daily routine, even if you don’t have a job or formal working hours.
  • Maintain social ties and participate in recreational leisure activities.
  • Seek professional help if necessary.

“At this juncture, it is essential to strengthen mental health care services,” the research team concluded. “In addition, it is important to specifically strengthen care for vulnerable populations, and also to look for ways to reduce that vulnerability and enhance protective factors of mental health such as economic stability, education and, in general, access to public services.”

If you are in Costa Rica, you can find general and mental health resources below: 

  • In an emergency, including a mental health emergency, call 1322 or 9-1-1. English-language operators are available at both numbers.
  • Students and their families can contact “Aquí estoy” (2272-3774).
  • ACEPS (Association for the Prevention of Suicide and Risk Behavior): 4081-9326
  • National Psychiatric Hospital: +506 2232-2155

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