Friday, January 14, 2022: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM
Marquis BR Salon 14, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
Talia Meital Schwartz Tayri, PhD, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
While the virus itself may not distinguish between people's skin color, educational attainments, or wealth, the pandemic's impacts on people's mental health were unequal across different countries and populations. In particular, certain demographic groups, such as older adults and racial/ethnic minorities, faced disproportionate exposure due to both health and economic risk factors. The negative impacts on the pandemic have created a massive increase in urgent emotional and instrumental needs among a variety of populations. While these health and economic disparities are increasingly well-documented, less is known on how and why the pandemic negatively and disproportionately affected people's mental health and well-being. Four international studies in this symposium explore the pandemic impacts on mental health and resilience with unique empirical approaches. The first two studies employ nationally representative panel surveys in the US and Israel. First, Graham et al. explore differences in resilience and their linkages to behavioral responses across racial groups and income cohorts in the US. Minorities -- Blacks and Hispanics -- display higher levels of optimism and better reported mental health than Whites, even though they are much more likely to get infected and die from COVID than whites. The differences are greatest across low-income groups, with poor Blacks the most resilient group. Second, Schwartz-Tayri et al. explore the psychological well-being of Israelis during the pandemic focusing on its multidimensional nature. The authors find negative associations between risk factors -- such as financial and employment hardships, food insecurity, anxiety, and the well-being indicator. Contrastingly, they examine that protective factors -- like income benefits and emotional supports -- mitigated the negative associations. Notably, universal employment benefits did not have a significant effect on psychological well-being. Third, Shapira et al. employ the Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) design to measure the impacts of cognitive-behavioral and mindfulness digital intervention on the mental health of community-dwelling older adults in Israel. During the pandemic, they find that the online group intervention had notable positive effects on older adults' well-being, showing significant decreases in distress and loneliness. Lastly, Gewirtz-Meydan et al. focused on the association between couple relationship satisfaction, risk factors, and psychological well-being among 1547 Israelis. Unexpectedly, they find that during the COVID-19 crisis, couple relationships did not serve as a protective factor and did not decrease the harmful effects of financial hardship and anxiety related to the COVID-19 outbreak. Our symposium provides a comprehensive understanding of how and why the pandemic negatively and disproportionately affected people's mental health and well-being. We investigated the context of wide-scale crises using diverse theoretical frameworks and examined empirical models comprised of multilevel predictors to evaluate the impact of COVID-19 on individuals' mental health, life satisfaction, and well-being. We have implications for the long-term mental health effects on different population groups in the face of this unprecedented challenge. Better understanding these differences -- and the lessons that stem from those population cohorts with the most resilience -- can, ultimately, lead to lessons that may help bolster the mental health and behavioral responses of vulnerable groups during uncertain times.
* noted as presenting author
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