Optimists’ and pessimists’ self-reported mental and global health during the COVID-19 pandemic in Norway
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Background The COVID-19 pandemic represents a global health crisis. How well people cope with this situation depends on many factors, including one’s personality, such as dispositional optimism. The aim of the study was to investi-gate: 1) optimists’ and pessimists’ concerns during lockdown, and mental and global health; 2) whether pessi-mists without known risk factors more often than optimists report being at risk for COVID-19. Participants and procedure A snowball sampling strategy was used; 4,527 people, 18 years or older, participated in a survey on a variety of mental health conditions and COVID-19 worries. In addition, they completed the Life Orientation Test-Revised (LOT-R). Optimism was defined by LOT-R f ≥ 17. Results Fewer optimists than pessimists reported that they were worried about COVID-19, respectively 51.2% vs. 66.8%, p < .001. Among those reporting none of the known somatic risk factors, more pessimists than optimists (14.3% vs. 9.1%, p < .001) considered themselves at risk of a fatal outcome from COVID-19. Significantly fewer optimists reported that they had anxiety (5.1%), depression (3.4%), suicidal ideation (0.7%) and insomnia (19.3%) during the COVID-19 outbreak than pessimists (24.7% anxiety, 18.4% depression, 5.4% suicidal idea-tion, 39.8% insomnia, all p < .001). Optimists reported better global health than pessimists (87.2 vs. 84.6, p < .001). Conclusions Optimists were generally less worried about the COVID-19 pandemic than pessimists and reported better men-tal and global health during lockdown. Pessimists more often than optimists reported being at risk for COVID-19 without reporting known risk factors.