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Arch Hellen Med, 39(3), May-June 2023, 354-365


The knowledge, perceptions and mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
in the Greek general population

K. Souliotis,1,2 L.E. Peppou,3,4 M.T. Samara,5,6 T.V. Giannouchos,7 J. Nimatoudis,5 C. Papageorgiou,3 S. Leucht,6 M. Economou3,4
1Faculty of Social and Education Sciences, University of the Peloponnese, Corinth
2Health Policy Institute, Athens
3First Department of Psychiatry, "Eginition" Hospital, School of Medicine, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens
4Unit of Social Psychiatry and Psychosocial Care, University Mental Health, Neurosciences and Precision Medicine Research Institute (UMHRI) "Costas Stefanis", Athens
5Third Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece
6Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Klinikum rechts der Isar, School of Medicine, Technical University of Munich, Munich, Germany
7Pharmacotherapy Outcomes Research Center, College of Pharmacy, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

OBJECTIVE To explore the knowledge and perceptions of COVID-19 in the general population in Greece, to gauge the prevalence of stress, anxiety and depression, and to examine the association between perceptions and socio-demographic variables and mental health status.

METHOD Telephone interviews were conducted with a random, representative sample of 1,041 participants across Greece in the period 10th–14th April 2020. Knowledge and perceptions were assessed with a specially constructed questionnaire, mental health status was measured using the Depression, Anxiety Stress Scale-21 (DASS-21), and sociodemographic and physical characteristics were recorded.

RESULTS According to the responses, COVID-19 has evoked diverse opinions in the general public, especially with respect to its similarity to common influenza, its mode of transmission (airborne), the belief that it is manufactured, and whether it is out of control. The responses to DASS-21 showed the prevalence of moderate/severe/extreme cases to be 22.3% for depression, 15.9% for anxiety, and 13.1% for stress. Those who acknowledged the dangerous nature of COVID-19 for certain groups exhibited higher stress and depression scores. Respondents who believed that the coronavirus is manufactured and those neutral towards its transmission by air, had higher anxiety, stress and depression scores, while those who agreed that the virus is out of control had lower stress scores. Women, young people, residents of urban areas, those residing in households with a member vulnerable to the virus, individuals with high educational attainment and respondents of lower socio-economic status, all manifested higher risk of mental health problems, as did people who endorsed the view that the virus was manufactured and served specific purposes.

CONCLUSIONS Health education intervention, telepsychiatry and mental health promotion strategies are urgently needed for mitigating the psychological burden of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Key words: Anxiety, Coronavirus, Depression, Psychological burden, Stress.

© Archives of Hellenic Medicine