Optimists’ and pessimists’ self-reported mental and global health during the COVID-19 pandemic in Norway
Trond Heir 9,10
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Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
Department of Cancer, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway
Department of Acute Medicine, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway
Faculty of Health Studies, VID Specialized University, Oslo, Norway
Department of Health and Nursing Science, Faculty of Social and Health Sciences, Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences, Elverum, Norway
Faculty of Health Studies, VID Specialized University, Sandnes, Norway
Faculty of Health Sciences, Oslo Metropolitan University, Oslo, Norway
Department of Research, Sunnaas Rehabilitation Hospital HF, Nesodden, Norway
Norwegian Center for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies, Oslo, Norway
Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
Department of Mental Health and Addiction, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway
Submission date: 2020-07-24
Final revision date: 2020-10-17
Acceptance date: 2020-11-14
Online publication date: 2021-01-05
Publication date: 2021-01-05
Health Psychology Report 2021;9(2):160–168
The COVID-19 pandemic represents a global health crisis. How well people cope with this situation depends on many factors, including one’s personality, such as dispositional optimism. The aim of the study was to investi-gate: 1) optimists’ and pessimists’ concerns during lockdown, and mental and global health; 2) whether pessi-mists without known risk factors more often than optimists report being at risk for COVID-19.

Participants and procedure:
A snowball sampling strategy was used; 4,527 people, 18 years or older, participated in a survey on a variety of mental health conditions and COVID-19 worries. In addition, they completed the Life Orientation Test-Revised (LOT-R). Optimism was defined by LOT-R f ≥ 17.

Fewer optimists than pessimists reported that they were worried about COVID-19, respectively 51.2% vs. 66.8%, p < .001. Among those reporting none of the known somatic risk factors, more pessimists than optimists (14.3% vs. 9.1%, p < .001) considered themselves at risk of a fatal outcome from COVID-19. Significantly fewer optimists reported that they had anxiety (5.1%), depression (3.4%), suicidal ideation (0.7%) and insomnia (19.3%) during the COVID-19 outbreak than pessimists (24.7% anxiety, 18.4% depression, 5.4% suicidal idea-tion, 39.8% insomnia, all p < .001). Optimists reported better global health than pessimists (87.2 vs. 84.6, p < .001).

Optimists were generally less worried about the COVID-19 pandemic than pessimists and reported better men-tal and global health during lockdown. Pessimists more often than optimists reported being at risk for COVID-19 without reporting known risk factors.

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