COVID-19, IBD and mental health

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One effect of the COVID-19 pandemic which is given less importance in the media coverage is the effect it has on people´s mental health. Fears and worries are normal responses to any real or perceived threat and is not surprising that many people are coping with higher levels of fear and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Besides the fear of becoming infected with the virus other changes due to the lockdowns and restrictions in our daily habits have a significant impact on our mental well-being.

In a recent survey that we have carried out in order to better understand the concerns and fears of the IBD community in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic we have found that out of 3815 respondents an alarming 85 % were afraid of getting infected from COVID-19 with 87% being afraid of infecting other people.

This high figure is of course contributed to the fact that people with a chronic disease, such as Crohn´s disease or Ulcerative Colitis (collectively known as IBD) consider themselves to be in a high-risk group.  However not everyone with Crohn's disease or Ulcerative Colitis will have an increased risk of complications from coronavirus, nonetheless some may need to take extra precautions.

As far as concerns IBD immunosuppressive drugs and COVID-19 the majority of respondents were afraid that medications may increase the risk of COVID-19, but at the same time they strictly follow the indication of their specialist and do not intend to abandon the therapy.

In addition to the fears of the disease itself the changes to our daily habits such the lack of physical contact with our family and friends as well as the potential economic impact have resulted in higher levels of stress and anxiety.

What is very interesting is that respondents to the survey felt that patient associations were a significant factor in ‘reducing their fears and worries about COVID-19’ (42%). In fact, it was the highest score in this category being ahead of relatives (27%) and recommendations from national and international authorities (14%).

This is very good news for patient associations that are working to improve the quality of life of people with IBD. It gives us the affirmation of our work and drives us to continue in the best possible way to support people with IBD and to harness the potential of patient associations.

by Isabella Haaf, EFCCA Deputy Director

 

About the survey ​
The COVID-19 IBD patients' perception survey has been co- designed with Pr. Silvio Danese, Head of the IBD Center at Humanitas University Hospital in Milan in order to better understand the concerns and fears of the IBD community in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The data have been collected during the period March, 30th – April, 16th 2020. 

Read the full results of the survey:  https://www.efcca.org/sites/default/files/covid%20survey%20results.pdf