Psychological distress, fear and coping among Malaysians during the COVID-19 pandemic

Ahmed Suparno Bahar Moni, Shalimar Abdullah, Mohammad Farris Iman Leong Bin Abdullah, Mohammed Shahjahan Kabir, Sheikh M. Alif, Farhana Sultana, Masudus Salehin, Sheikh Mohammed Shariful Islam, Wendy Cross, Muhammad Aziz Rahman

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54 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction The COVID-19 pandemic has enormously affected the psychological well-being, social and working life of millions of people across the world. This study aimed to investigate the psychological distress, fear and coping strategies as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated factors among Malaysian residents. Methods Participants were invited to an online cross-sectional survey from Aug-Sep 2020. The study assessed psychological distress using the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale, level of fear using the Fear of COVID-19 Scale, and coping strategies using the Brief Resilient Coping Scale. Univariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses were conducted to adjust for potential confounders. Results The mean age (±SD) of the participants (N = 720) was 31.7 (±11.5) years, and most of them were females (67.1%). Half of the participants had an income source, while 216 (30%) identified themselves as frontline health or essential service workers. People whose financial situation was impacted due to COVID-19 (AOR 2.16, 95% CIs 1.54 3.03), people who drank alcohol in the last four weeks (3.43, 1.45 8.10), people who were a patient (2.02, 1.39 2.93), and had higher levels of fear of COVID-19 (2.55, 1.70 3.80) were more likely to have higher levels of psychological distress. Participants who self-isolated due to exposure to COVID-19 (3.12, 1.04 9.32) and who had moderate to very high levels of psychological distress (2.56, 1.71 3.83) had higher levels of fear. Participants who provided care to a family member/patient with a suspected case of COVID-19 were more likely to be moderately to highly resilient compared to those who did not. Conclusion Vulnerable groups of individuals such as patients and those impacted financially during COVID-19 should be supported for their mental wellbeing. Behavioural interventions should be targeted to reduce the impact of alcohol drinking during such crisis period.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0257304
Number of pages21
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021

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