Identifying Resilience Factors of Distress and Paranoia During the COVID-19 Outbreak in Five Countries

Martin Jensen Mækelæ, Niv Reggev, Renata P. Defelipe, Natalia Dutra, Ricardo M. Tamayo, Kristoffer Klevjer, Gerit Pfuhl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic outbreak has affected all countries with more than 100 million confirmed cases and over 2.1 million casualties by the end of January 2021 worldwide. A prolonged pandemic can harm global levels of optimism, regularity, and sense of meaning and belonging, yielding adverse effects on individuals' mental health as represented by worry, paranoia, and distress. Here we studied resilience, a successful adaptation despite risk and adversity, in five countries: Brazil, Colombia, Germany, Israel, and Norway. In April 2020, over 2,500 participants were recruited for an observational study measuring protective and obstructive factors for distress and paranoia. More than 800 of these participants also completed a follow-up study in July. We found that thriving, keeping a regular schedule, engaging in physical exercise and less procrastination served as factors protecting against distress and paranoia. Risk factors were financial worries and a negative mindset, e.g., feeling a lack of control. Longitudinally, we found no increase in distress or paranoia despite an increase in expectation of how long the outbreak and the restrictions will last, suggesting respondents engaged in healthy coping and adapting their lives to the new circumstances. Altogether, our data suggest that humans adapt even to prolonged stressful events. Our data further highlight several protective factors that policymakers should leverage when considering stress-reducing policies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number661149
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
StatePublished - 10 Jun 2021


  • coping behavior
  • mental health
  • pandemic (COVID-19)
  • protective factor
  • thriving

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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