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The COVID-19 pandemic is an inherently stressful situation, which may lead to adverse psychosocial outcomes in various populations. Yet, individuals may not be affected equally by stressors posed by the pandemic and those with pre-existing mental disorders could be particularly vulnerable. To test this hypothesis, we assessed the psychological response to the pandemic in a case-control design. We used an age-, sex- and employment status-matched case-control sample (n = 216) of psychiatric inpatients, recruited from the LMU Psychiatry Biobank Munich study and non-clinical individuals from the general population. Participants completed validated self-report measures on stress, anxiety, depression, paranoia, rumination, loneliness, well-being, resilience, and a newly developed index of stressors associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Multiple linear regression analyses were conducted to assess the effects of group, COVID-19-specific stressors, and their interaction on the different psychosocial outcomes. While psychiatric inpatients reported larger mental health difficulties overall, the impact of COVID-19-specific stressors was lower in patients and not associated with worse psychological functioning compared to non-clinical individuals. In contrast, depressive symptoms, rumination, loneliness, and well-being were more strongly associated with COVID-19-specific stressors in non-clinical individuals and similar to the severity of inpatients for those who experienced the greatest COVID-19-specific stressor impact Contrary to expectations, the psychological response to the pandemic may not be worse in psychiatric inpatients compared to non-clinical individuals. Yet, individuals from the general population, who were hit hardest by the pandemic, should be monitored and may be in need of mental health prevention and treatment efforts.

Original publication




Journal article


Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci

Publication Date



COVID-19 pandemic, COVID-19-specific stressors, Mental health, Psychiatric inpatients, Psychological response