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LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 64  |  Issue : 6  |  Page : 249-250  

Psychological distress during COVID-19 among Malayalam-speaking Indian expats in the middle east


1 Consultant, Department of Psychiatry, Iqraa International Hospital and Research Centre, Calicut, Kerala, India
2 Group General Manager, Department of Hospital Administration, Iqraa International Hospital and Research Centre, Calicut, Kerala, India
3 Critical Care Fellow, Department of Critical Care, Iqraa International Hospital and Research Centre, Calicut, Kerala, India
4 Consultant, Department of Dermatology, Iqraa International Hospital and Research Centre, Calicut, Kerala, India
5 Dentist, Department of Dentistry, Al Sanah Dental Speciality Centre, Calicut, Kerala, India
6 Clinical Psychologist, Department of Clinical Psychology, Al Soor Specialist Clinic, Al Soor, Sharjah, UAE

Date of Submission19-Apr-2020
Date of Decision03-May-2020
Date of Acceptance11-May-2020
Date of Web Publication2-Jun-2020

Correspondence Address:
N A Uvais
Department of Psychiatry, Iqraa International Hospital and Research Centre, Calicut, Kerala
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/ijph.IJPH_475_20

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How to cite this article:
Uvais N A, Nalakath MJ, Shihabudheen P, Hafi NB, Rasmina V, Salman C A. Psychological distress during COVID-19 among Malayalam-speaking Indian expats in the middle east. Indian J Public Health 2020;64, Suppl S2:249-50

How to cite this URL:
Uvais N A, Nalakath MJ, Shihabudheen P, Hafi NB, Rasmina V, Salman C A. Psychological distress during COVID-19 among Malayalam-speaking Indian expats in the middle east. Indian J Public Health [serial online] 2020 [cited 2020 Aug 11];64, Suppl S2:249-50. Available from: http://www.ijph.in/text.asp?2020/64/6/249/285603



Dear Editor,

Our study was aimed to evaluate the psychological distress among the Malayalam-speaking Indian expats working in the Middle East during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This was a cross-sectional, observational survey of psychological distress among Malayalam-speaking expats living in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, during the tumultuous time of the COVID-19 epidemic. A snowball sampling technique was used to recruit participants. An online self-report questionnaire was designed using google forms. The link of the questionnaire was sent through WhatsApp and other social media platforms to the contacts of the investigators, and the participants were encouraged to forward the survey to at least 10 more people. Ethical committee approval was obtained for this study (IEC/2020/03/01).

In addition to demographic data, we also added a list of COVID-19 pandemic-related questions (i.e., Have you been exposed to COVID-19 patients?, Have you been quarantines?, How much are you concerned with media reports related to COVID-19?, How much are you affected by air travel restrictions?). Malayalam versions of the Patient Health Questionnaire for Depression (PHQ 9) and the Generalized Anxiety Disorder Scale (GAD 7) were also been incorporated to assess the level of depression and anxiety, respectively.

We received 157 responses between April 15, 2020, and April 18, 2020. The sociodemographic details are summarized in [Table 1]. 47.8% of the sample was concerned with the media reports related to COVID-19 pandemic, and 36.9% of the study population was affected by the air travel restriction during the pandemic. 22.4% of the respondents reported clinically significant anxiety levels; mild anxiety (17.7%), moderate anxiety (4.1%), and severe anxiety (0.7%). 29.7% of the respondents reported clinically significant depression levels; mild depression (22.1%), moderate depression (4.1%), and moderately severe depression (2.8%). The PHQ 9 score and GAD 7 score are significantly associated with the level of concern with media reports related to COVID-19 pandemic (P < 0.01) and the level of concern with air traffic restriction (P < 0.05).
Table 1: Sociodemographic characteristics of the sample

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The rate of depression in our study is significantly higher when compared to the past studies done among expat population during the pre-COVID-19 period. Sarwani et al. explored anxiety and depression among expatriate workers using the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale and found that 20.3% of the participants reported anxiety and 13% reported depression.[1] We found statistically significant association between subjective concern with media reports related to COVID 19 pandemic and the level of anxiety and depression. There is a growing evidence to suggest that frequent media exposure of COVID-19-related news can have detrimental mental health effects.[2] We also found statistically significant association between subjective concern with air traffic restrictions during COVID-19 pandemic and the level of anxiety and depression. These findings implicated that both Indian government and Governments of the Middle Eastern countries need to pay more attention to mental health among expat population, while combating with COVID-19.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
   References Top

1.
Sarwani SA, Abdulla KB, Mandeel MA. Prevalence of stress, anxiety and depression among expatriate workers. Bahrain Med Bull 2013;35:126-9.  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
Gao J, Zheng P, Jia Y, Chen H, Mao Y, Chen S, et al. Mental health problems and social media exposure during COVID-19 outbreak. PLoS One 2020;15:e0231924.  Back to cited text no. 2
    



 
 
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