Article Text

Original research
Depression, anxiety and stress during the COVID-19 pandemic: results from a New Zealand cohort study on mental well-being
  1. Norina Gasteiger1,
  2. Kavita Vedhara2,
  3. Adam Massey2,
  4. Ru Jia2,
  5. Kieran Ayling2,
  6. Trudie Chalder3,
  7. Carol Coupland2,
  8. Elizabeth Broadbent1
  1. 1Psychological Medicine, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
  2. 2Division of Primary Care, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK
  3. 3Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King's College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Elizabeth Broadbent; e.broadbent{at}


Objectives The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption to daily life. This study investigated depression, anxiety and stress in New Zealand (NZ) during the first 10 weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, and associated psychological and behavioural factors. It also compares the results with a similar cross-sectional study in the UK.

Design Cross-sectional study.

Setting NZ community cohort.

Participants N=681 adults (≥18 years) in NZ. The cohort was predominantly female (89%) with a mean age of 42 years (range 18–87). Most (74%) identified as NZ European and almost half (46%) were keyworkers. Most were non-smokers (95%) and 20% identified themselves as having clinical risk factors which would put them at increased or greatest risk of COVID-19.

Main outcome measures Depression, anxiety, stress, positive mood and engagement in health behaviours (smoking, exercise, alcohol consumption).

Results Depression and anxiety significantly exceeded population norms (p<0.0001). Being younger (p<0.0001) and most at risk of COVID-19 (p<0.05) were associated with greater depression, anxiety and stress. Greater positive mood, lower loneliness and greater exercise were protective factors for all outcomes (p<0.0001). Smoking (p=0.037) and alcohol consumption (p<0.05) were associated with increased anxiety. Pet ownership was associated with lower depression (p=0.006) and anxiety (p=0.008). When adjusting for age and gender differences, anxiety (p=0.002) and stress (p=0.007) were significantly lower in NZ than in the UK. The NZ sample reported lower perceived risk (p<0.0001) and worry about COVID-19 (p<0.0001) than the UK sample.

Conclusions The NZ population had higher depression and anxiety compared with population norms. Younger people and those most at risk of COVID-19 reported poorer mental health. Interventions should promote frequent exercise, and reduce loneliness and unhealthy behaviours.

  • COVID-19
  • depression & mood disorders
  • anxiety disorders
  • public health

Data availability statement

No data are available. Participants of this study did not agree for their data to be shared publicly, so supporting data are not available.

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:

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Data availability statement

No data are available. Participants of this study did not agree for their data to be shared publicly, so supporting data are not available.

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  • Twitter @NorinaGasteiger, @kavitavedhara, @RJ_ruthj, @@LizBroadbent

  • Contributors All authors (NG, KV, AM, RJ, KY, TC, CC and EB) contributed to the study design, interpretations of the findings and consented to the final version of the manuscript before submission to the publisher. NG and EB also managed recruitment, collected and analysed the data, and prepared the first draft of the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.