Second Covid wave much more stressful than first

People working in sectors such as food service reported higher levels of stress and symptoms of depression according to the survey. Keystone / Gian Ehrenzeller

Twice as many people in Switzerland are suffering from severe depression in the second wave of coronavirus as in the first wave, according to the latest survey on the pandemic and mental health.

This content was published on December 17, 2020 - 16:10

The online survey of more than 11,000 people across the country found that 20% of people experienced maximum stress levels during the second wave in November compared with 11% during the peak of the first wave in April. The share of people with symptoms of severe depression rose from 9% to 18% in the same period. Only 3% reported such symptoms prior to the pandemic.

Young people are particularly affected, with the share reporting symptoms of depression decreasing with age. Some 29% of 14- to 24-year-olds reported feeling depressed compared with only 6% for those 65 years and older.

One of the major factors contributing to psychological stress and depression is pressure caused by Covid-related changes at work, school or training. The authors also cite stress from financial losses, increased conflict at home and fears about the future. The rates of depression were up to 28% for those experiencing financial stress.

People working in a sector affected financially by government measures such as restaurants, culture or tourism are strongly affected.

In addition, rates were higher in the French-speaking part of the country, which faced the highest infection rates and most restrictive safety measures in November.

Overall, researchers found a correlation between the strength of the second wave (incidence of new infections) and the frequency of severe depressive symptoms in the cantons.

The survey also found more participants were concerned that a loved one might become seriously ill or die from Covid-19.

Stress reducing factors

The research team found that physically active people had, on average, slightly less stress. They also encouraged people to seek help from specialists. A small anonymous self-assessment test for depressive symptoms is available at

Given the high rates of young people affected, the study authors encourage schools to explore their role and pursue a flexible approach to the school curriculum.

The second online survey was led by the University of Basel as part of the Swiss Corona Stress Study.

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