The Lancet has published a rapid review of the psychological impacts of quarantine. Most reviewed studies reported negative psychological effects including post-traumatic stress symptoms, confusion, anger, low mood and irritability.
The key stressors included longer quarantine duration, infection fears, frustration, boredom, inadequate supplies, inadequate information, financial loss, and stigma.
Psychological effects were documented not only during the quarantine period, but also immediately post quarantine and even up three years after quarantine.
While no conclusive demographic predictors were evident across the studies reviewed, some studies reviewed showed parents and children had disproportionate rates of mental health disorders or negative psychological symptoms.
The research indicated numerous actions that can be taken to mitigate the negative psychological impacts quarantine including:
- quarantining individuals for no longer than required
- giving as much information as possible, including providing a clear rationale for the quarantine and information about protocols
- ensuring sufficient supplies are provided
- reducing boredom by advising people about what they can do to stave off boredom and providing them with practical advice on coping and stress management techniques
- encouraging communication – a working mobile phone (and charger) is a necessity, not a luxury
- there is evidence that support groups specifically for people who were quarantined at home during disease outbreaks can be helpful
- healthcare workers deserve special attention – organisational support has been found to be protective of the mental health of healthcare workers. Healthcare managers should take steps to ensure their workforce is supportive of their colleagues who are quarantined
- the authors also suggest that appealing to altruism by reminding the public about the benefits of quarantine to wider society can be favourable in reducing the psychological impacts of quarantine