Could COVID-19 Worsen Depression in Those Without Natural Mood Regulation?

Shirley Amy
May 6, 2020

Research published in this month’s journal, JAMA Psychiatry, shows that while people’s mood fluctuates from day to day, and hour to hour, improving our mood involves picking specific activities. “In situations where personal choices of activities are constrained, such as during periods of social isolation and lock-down, this natural mood regulation is impaired which might result in depression.”

mood regulation

Taking an Up Close Look at the Research

This groundbreaking study, which comprised 58,328 subjects, and was backed by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and the NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Center, suggests that there could be a new goal for reducing and treating depression. Namely, working to support natural mood regulation. The participants, who came from high, middle- and low-income nations, had a history of either high mood, or depression and low mood.

Analyzing the Way People Regulate Their Mood

Using various analytical methods, the scientists looked at the way individuals adjust their mood via their choice of daily activities. The public at large have been shown to exhibit a strong bend between the way they feel at the time, and which activities they decide to be involved in next.  Known as ‘mood homeostasis’, this mechanism has the means to balance people’s mood via their activities — however, such a mechanism is impaired in those “with low mood, and may even be absent in people who have never been diagnosed with depression.”

The University of Oxford’s Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry, Guy Goodwin, stated that: ‘When we are down, we tend to choose to do things that cheer us up, and when we are up, we may take on activities that will tend to bring us down. However, with COVID-19, lockdowns and social isolation, our choice of activities is limited. “Our research shows this normal mood regulation is impaired in people with depression, providing a new, direct target for further research and development of new treatments to help people with depression.”

Developing Depression

During some point in their lifetime, one in five of us will develop major depression. At the present time, however, a higher percentage is anticipated. Moreover, around

“50% of people will not see their symptoms improve significantly with an antidepressant, and the same applies to psychological treatments.” To that end, innovative treatments to combat depression, which can offer more than conventional help, should be a major priority for mental health researchers.

One of the University of Oxford’s Academic Foundation Doctors, Maxime Taquet, remarked: “By training people to increase their own mood homeostasis, how someone naturally regulates their mood via their choices of activities, we might be able to prevent or better treat depression.”

Studies imply that if real time mood monitoring is implemented, then intelligent systems could be programmed to give patients activity suggestions to boost their mood. And the great news is that this can be done remotely.

Shirley Amy

Shirley Amy is a Holistic Health Specialist and professional writer who's published 4 books. Her  interests include optimum wellness, mental health, fitness, and positive lifestyle change. She holds University and College qualifications in the fields of Health Science, Nutrition, Mental Health, Fitness, Holistic Therapy and Aromatherapy.

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