The psychological impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on adults and children in the United Arab Emirates: a nationwide crosssectional study
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Background: The psychosocial impact of previous infectious disease outbreaks in adults has been well documented, however, there is limited information on the mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on adults and children in the United Arab Emirate (UAE) community. The aim of this study was to explore anxiety levels among adults and children in the UAE and to identify potential risk and protective factors for well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: Using a web-based cross-sectional survey we collected data from 2200 self-selected, assessed volunteers and their children. Demographic information, knowledge and beliefs about COVID-19, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) using the (GAD-7) scale, emotional problems in children using the strengths and difficulties questionnaire (SDQ), worry and fear about COVID-19, coping mechanisms and general health information were collected. Descriptive analysis was carried out to summarize demographic and participant characteristics, Chi-square analysis to explore associations between categorical variables and anxiety levels and multivariable binary logistic regression analysis to determine predictors of anxiety levels in adults and emotional problems in children. Results: The overall prevalence of GAD in the general population was 71% with younger people (59.8%) and females (51.7%) reporting highest levels of anxiety. Parents who were teachers reported the highest percentage of emotional problems in children (26.7%). Adjusted multivariable logistic regression for GAD-7 scores showed that being female, high levels of worry associated with COVID-19, intention to take the COVID-19 vaccine and smoking were associated with higher levels of anxiety. Adjusted multivariable logistic regression for SDQ showed that higher emotional problems were reported for children in lower and higher secondary education, and parents who had severe anxiety were seven times more likely to report emotional problems in their children. Conclusions: This study reports the psychological impact of COVID-19 among adults and children in the UAE and highlights the significant association between parental and child anxiety. Findings suggest the urgency for policy makers to develop effective screening and coping strategies for parents and especially children.