Understanding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on well-being and mental health

A research team from the Bordeaux Population Health research center (INSERM & University of Bordeaux) in association with the health company Kappa Santé, recently launched CONFINS, a major study into the effects of the SARS-CoV2 coronavirus pandemic and lockdown on the well-being and mental health of the population. Discover this study thanks to an interview with Christophe Tzourio, Professor of Epidemiology and Director of the Bordeaux Population Health center.

  • 15/06/2020

“Everyone is now aware that the psychological consequences of the pandemic and lockdown on the whole population are a major issue. This unprecedented situation profoundly alters our daily lives and can lead to social isolation. Certain experts even evoke the notion of a second epidemic of psychological disorders for which we are little prepared. This is especially true given that the end of lockdown will probably be disappointing for those who are hoping to go back to life as it was before the pandemic”, suggests Christophe Tzourio, epidemiologist and director of the Bordeaux Population Health center (BPH) and head of the i-Share cohort on student health. 

A study on the psychological impacts of lockdown

The production of knowledge around the pandemic and its short- and medium-term effects on the mental health of the population is therefore essential. Such is the aim of the CONFINS study, launched in early April 2020 by a research team from BPH and the company Kappa Santé.

“We set up this research project very rapidly, combining the scientific component of the University of Bordeaux with Kappa Santé’s digital expertise in the field of public health,” Professor Tzourio explains.

 The main goal of this cohort is to assess and monitor the psychological state of participants, which will enable us to measure the scale of the problem and provide solutions.

Christophe Tzourio — Professor of Epidemiology, Director of BPH

Not only for students

CONFINS is studying two groups: one made up of students, including a certain number of subjects from the i-Share cohort, and the other based on a sample of the general public, recruited via social media among other means. Two distinct questionnaires were created. “It is clear that the student population, which already has high levels of stress and depression (20% to 30% of students according to i-Share study data), was impacted by this situation, facing isolation, loss of income, difficult lockdown living conditions, and concerns over their exams and professional future, etc. Certain students are reluctant to seek help. We’re hoping that CONFINS will reach out to those students too. The analysis of responses will allow us to improve care measures,” the epidemiologist explains. The “non-student” population is also strongly encouraged to take part in the study. This will enable comparisons to be made.

Joining the CONFINS cohort - an opportunity to move mental health research forward

As of end May, more than 2,500 people, both students and members of the general public, had already responded, which is a highly encouraging figure. The initial questionnaire (which takes just twenty minutes to answer) is followed by a year-long monthly survey.

The questions may be relatively general, such as “How would you rate the quality of your life this week?”, “What is your view on the development of the pandemic?”, or may focus on more specific points around key topics such as vaccinations. As Christophe Tzourio explains, “there is a high level of reluctance with regard to vaccination in France. Will we see a shift in this trend? Improved knowledge of the profile of individuals opposed to vaccination will enable health authorities to adapt their communication.”

All the data collected and anonymized will be analyzed in the framework of the study, to measure, assess and characterize various factors such as isolation, mood or stress levels. In the long-term, the study will help to improve knowledge in the field of mental health by linking these indicators with the extraordinary period we are all living through. The data will also help to develop adapted solutions to care for people weakened by this singular experience.

Note: this is an “observational” epidemiological study, i.e. there are no constraints for participants and it requires neither a medical visit, prescription nor any specific additional examination. Once the study is completed, participants will be notified of the global results, by simple request to the research team.

CONFINS study

Find out more by consulting the dedicated website (in French)