The Mental Health Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic Second Wave on Shielders and their Family Members

Jo Daniels, Hannah Rettie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (SciVal)


In March 2020, individuals shielding from coronavirus reported high rates of distress. This study investigated whether fear of contamination (FoC) and use of government-recommended behaviours (GRB; e.g., handwashing and wearing masks) were associated with psychological distress during February 2021. An online cross-sectional questionnaire assessed psychological distress in three groups (shielding self, shielding other/s, and control), and those shielding others also completed an adapted measure of health anxiety (α = 0.94). The sample (N = 723) was predominantly female (84%) with a mean age of 41.72 (SD = 15.15). Those shielding (self) demonstrated significantly higher rates of health anxiety and FoC in comparison to other groups (p < 0.001). The use of GRB was significantly lower in controls (p < 0.001), with no significant difference between the two shielding groups (p = 0.753). Rates of anxiety were higher when compared to March 2020 findings, except for controls. Hierarchical regressions indicated FoC and GRB accounted for 24% of variance in generalised anxiety (p < 0.001) and 28% in health anxiety, however, the latter was a non-significant predictor in final models. Those shielding themselves and others during the pandemic have experienced sustained levels of distress; special consideration must be given to those indirectly affected. Psychological interventions should account for realistic FoC and the impact of government-recommended health behaviours, as these factors are associated with distress in vulnerable groups and may extend beyond the pandemic. Future research should focus on longitudinal designs to monitor and better understand the clinical needs of those shielding others post-pandemic
Original languageEnglish
Article number7333
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2022


  • anxiety
  • behaviour
  • contamination
  • coronavirus
  • shielding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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