Argentinian Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Screening Study of the General Population During Two Periods of Quarantine
Background: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Argentina has been under mandatory quarantine. We have aimed to investigate the state of mental health of the Argentine population and the behaviours adopted to cope with mental distress during quarantine. Method: An online survey was conducted using a probabilistic sampling technique and stratified according to the geographic regions of the country. The survey covered days 7-11 (n = 2,631) and days 50-55 (n = 2,068) after compulsory quarantine. The psychological impact was measured using the 27-item Symptom CheckList (SCL-27), which provides a Global Severity Index (GSI). An ad hoc questionnaire registered problematic, healthy and other behaviours. Two network models were estimated using a Mixed Graphical Model. Data from the two periods were compared and analysed. Outcomes: Higher GSI scores and greater risk of experiencing mental disorder were found in Period 2 as compared with Period 1. The lowest GSI scores were associated with physical activity in both periods, and meditation and yoga in Period 1. Drug users reported the highest GSI scores in both periods. The Network Comparison Test confirmed a significant change in symptomatology structure over the two quarantine periods. Conclusion: This study showed that psychological symptoms and the risk of experiencing mental disorder increased significantly from Period 1 to Period 2. Network analysis suggested that the quarantine might have brought about changes in the relationships between symptoms. Overall results revealed the relevance of mental health and the need to take mental health actions upon imposing quarantine during the current COVID-19 pandemic.