Despite alarming reports concerning COVID-19’s effects on mental health, a recent evaluation of 137 studies from throughout the world indicated that the psychological effects of the pandemic have been less severe than believed.

“Mental health in COVID-19 is much more nuanced than people have made it out to be,” said Brett Thombs, senior study author and professor in the Department of Psychiatry at McGill University in Montreal. Thombs also holds a Canada Research Chair.

According to Thombs, “claims that the majority of people’s mental health has drastically declined throughout the pandemic have been based mostly on specific studies that are’snapshots’ of a particular scenario, in a particular area, at a particular moment. Typically, they don’t include making any long-term comparisons to what had existed before or came after.”

Researchers discovered that whether studies looked at the mental health of the community as a whole or that of certain groups, the changes in mental health were negligible.

“This is by far the most comprehensive study on COVID-19 mental health in the world, and it shows that, generally, people have been much more resilient than many have assumed,” said Ying Sun, a research coordinator from the Lady Davis Institute at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal and the study’s first author.

Yet, the study found that women have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.Due to their numerous family obligations, jobs in healthcare or elder care, or, in certain cases, family violence, some women suffered an aggravation of their symptoms, including anxiety, sadness, or general mental health.

“This is troubling and suggests that some women, as well as some individuals in other groups, have experienced deteriorations in their mental health and will need ongoing access to mental health support,” said Danielle Rice, a co-author of the study and assistant professor at McMaster University and St. Joseph’s Hospital, both in Hamilton, Ontario.

One of the conclusions was that there had been no changes in overall mental health or anxiety symptoms in general population research.