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40% of Seoul residents have mental health issues due to COVID-19

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By Lee Hyo-jin

The prolonged coronavirus pandemic has seen the mental health of Seoul citizens deteriorate more than their physical health, according to a recent survey by Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG).

According to the survey results released on Monday, 1,489 of 3,983 respondents ― almost 40 percent ― said their mental health has deteriorated since the start of the pandemic, whereas 22 percent felt it has worsened their physical health.

A total of 3,983 Seoul residents aged between 10 and 90 took part in the survey. The poll, organized in cooperation with IBM, was conducted via chatbots.

The main reasons offered for declining mental health were refraining from outdoor activities under social distancing measures, economic hardship, discomfort from wearing face masks, overall lethargy in daily routine, and the absence of human interaction.

The survey also revealed that people feel more stressed about isolation than unemployment or decreased income.

One third of the respondents stated that restricted leisure activities including travel bans were the main reason for mental stress. It was followed by lack of social interaction, chosen by 26 percent, followed by job loss or pay cuts, which was selected by 24 percent of respondents.

"It is normal for people to easily become depressed when they lack physical activity, as physical and mental health are deeply connected. Engaging in indoor activities such as home workouts or yoga will help," said Lee Dong-gui, a professor of psychology at Yonsei University.

"As COVID-19 has become a part of our daily lives, it may be better for our brains to view the pandemic as a marathon and prepare for it, rather than hoping it will soon come to an end," advised Lee.

Regarding the government's social distancing measures, a vast majority ― 92 percent of respondents ― consider the measures necessary and effective in containing the spread of the virus.

It is notable that public opinion has shifted radically from a previous survey in April, when SMG announced that 97 percent of the citizens in Seoul feel it is time to end the social distancing campaign and simply follow "social distancing in daily life" practices.

"Many people are feeling isolated and disconnected from society and we expect the number to grow. We are developing various measures to revitalize the daily lives of the public, especially for those who are more affected by the virus such as microbusiness owners, the elderly and young job seekers," an SMG official said.

Lee Hyo-jin


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