The effect of a prosocial environment on health and well-being during the first COVID-19 lockdown and a year later

Estherina Trachtenberg, Keren Ruzal, Oren Forkosh, Inbal Ben-Ami Bartal*

*Corresponding author for this work

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The outset of the COVID-19 pandemic was characterized by prolonged periods of chronic stress and social isolation. While studies have investigated the changes to well-being (WB) during this period, the impact of the social environment on long-term physical and mental health requires further study. This study aimed to assess the factors influencing WB and health outcomes, with the hypothesis that a positive social environment would play a significant immediate and long-term role in improving WB and preventing the effects of anxiety associated with the pandemic. At time point 1 (April 2020), an Israeli sample of 206 participants (84% female, mean age 31.5) responded to traditional questionnaires assessing mental health and social support. Factors affecting WB were assessed within subjects during the first COVID-19 lockdown for 6 weeks using a daily survey (Beiwe phone application). A year later, in May 2021, at time point 2, the initial questionnaires were readministered to a subset of the same participants (N = 94). We found that anxiety during the first lockdown adversely affected WB and predicted health and WB deterioration a year later. In contrast, a high quality of social relationships was associated with better short- and long-term WB, and mitigated the adverse effects of anxiety. Daily activities, including physical activity, meditation, and romantic relations, were also positively associated with WB during the first lockdown but did not have long-term effects. In summary, our study underscores the enduring health advantages of a positive social environment, particularly during stressful periods. These results have implications for health policymakers: programs which support individuals with high anxiety and low support, by integrating them into community-based interventions, promise to enhance well-being (WB) and health, as well as to fortify the community as a whole.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number6565
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2024

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