Despite Lockdowns, Some Experience 'Post-Traumatic Growth'

Positives that participants identified were associated with less anxiety and improved well-being.

Recent data published in the British Journal of Psychiatry has shown that some people and their families have had significant, positive impacts on their lives as a consequence of lockdowns implemented due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. The study was conducted by investigators from the University of Bath, in collaboration with international colleagues.

The team collected data from surveys that were taken during the first wave of the pandemic when lockdowns were initially imposed to try and reduce the spread of the disease, forcing families to slow down their lives.

“Many respondents in our study emphasized what we had heard anecdotally about some of the positive effects people have derived from leading their lives in quieter, slower ways because of lockdowns,” Paul Stallard, the lead researcher on the study said.

The surveys were taken between May and June of 2020, with 385 participants who were caregivers for children aged 6-16 in both the United Kingdom and Portugal. 70% of the respondents were working from home, 93% of their children were being homeschooled and 1 in 5 identified that at least 1 family member was suspected or had a confirmed infection with COVID-19. Almost half also reported that they had experienced a reduction in income.

Findings showed that the responses fell into 4 main categories of positive effects, which the investigators deemed ‘post-traumatic growth’. 48% described that they experienced a growth in their relationships with their families, stating the lockdowns brought them closer together. 22% felt a greater appreciation for their life, leading to a re-assessment of their values, priorities and adopting a healthier lifestyle.

Spiritual growth was also described, with 16% of the respondents engaging with fundamental, existential issues and experiencing a stronger sense of community. 11% embraced new opportunities in working practices, such as creating and embracing a better work/life balance. Many took the time to develop new skills, especially when it came to technology.

"These are important findings. Not only do we identify what some of these positive experiences have been, but we also show that those people who have been able to find those positives had better mental wellbeing than those who did not,” Stallard said. “And it gives us clues about how we might build back happier and healthier by embracing aspects of a quieter life and those small, positives that have emerged from this period."