Depression at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic: A CES-D survey before and during the lockdown

Sabrina Rizzo, Luciano Giromini, Claudia Pignolo

Accepted December 31, 2020

First published December 31, 2020


On January 31, 2020, the first two cases of COVID-19 were detected in Italy; the extent and the rapidity of virus spread forced the Italian Government to take extraordinary measures to prevent contagion. In this study, we aimed to compare data collected before and during the COVID-19 pandemic on the depression symptomatology in a sample from the general population. We used archival data from a previous dataset we had access to, which included Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression scale (CES-D) data from non-clinical volunteers collected before (n = 151; Pre-COVID-19 group) and during (n = 352; COVID group) the pandemic. Statistical analyses compared CES-D scores yielded by the Pre-COVID-19 sample against those yielded by the COVID-19 sample. Additionally, the possible impact of demographic variables on CES-D scores before and during COVID-19 was tested. Moreover, in the COVID-19 group we found a statistically significant difference on the CES-D scores between men and women and a nearly significant relationship between age and CES-D scores. This study showed that the lockdown measures and the pandemic itself might have led to an increasing of the depressive symptoms in a non-clinical sample (and maybe in the Italian population), especially in women and youths.


  • AHMED, M.Z., AHMED, O., AIBAO, Z., HANBIN, S., SIYU, L. &AHMAD, A. (2020). Epidemic of COVID-19 in China andassociated psychological problems. Asian Journal of Psychiatry,102092.

  • AL-MODALLAL, H. (2010). Screening depressive symptoms inJordanian women: Evaluation of the Center for EpidemiologicStudies-Depression scale (CES-D). Issues in Mental HealthNursing, 31 (8), 537-544.

  • ANDRESEN, E.M., MALMGREN, J.A., CARTER, W.B. & PATRICK,D.L. (1994). Screening for depression in well older adults:Evaluation of a short form of the CES-D. American Journal ofPreventive Medicine, 10 (2), 77-84.

  • BECK, A.T. (1967). Depression: Clinical, experimental, and theoreticalaspects. New York: Harper & Row.

  • BECK, A.T. (1987). Cognitive models of depression. Journal ofCognitive Psychotherapy, An International Quarterly, 1, 5-37.

  • BUONSENSO, D., CINICOLA, B., RAFFAELLI, F., SOLLENA, P.& IODICE, F. (2020). Social consequences of COVID-19 in alow resource setting in Sierra Leone, West Africa. InternationalJournal of Infectious Diseases, 97, 23-26.

  • BUZZI, C., TUCCI, M., CIPRANDI, R., BRAMBILLA, I., CAIMMI,S., CIPRANDI, G. & MARSEGLIA, G.L. (2020). The psycho-social effects of COVID-19 on Italian adolescents’ attitudes andbehaviors. Italian Journal of Pediatrics, 46, 1-7.

  • CHOI, E.P.H., HUI, B.P.H. & WAN, E.Y.F. (2020). Depression andanxiety in Hong Kong during COVID-19. International Journalof Environmental Research and Public Health, 17 (10), 3740.

  • FAVA, G.A. (1983). Assessing depressive symptoms across cultures:Italian validation of the CES‐D self‐rating scale. Journal ofClinical Psychology, 39 (2), 249-251.

  • HUANG, Y. & ZHAO, N. (2020). Generalized anxiety disorder,depressive symptoms and sleep quality during COVID-19outbreak in China: A web-based cross-sectional survey.Psychiatry Research, 288 (112954).

  • MAJI, S. (2018). Society and ‘good woman’: A critical review ofgender difference in depression. International Journal of SocialPsychiatry, 64 (4), 396-405.

  • MILLER, W.C., ANTON, H.A. & TOWNSON, A.F. (2008).Measurement properties of the CES-D scale among individualswith spinal cord injury. Spinal Cord, 46 (4), 287-292.

  • MYERS, J.K. & WEISSMAN, M.M. (1980). Use of a self-reportsymptom scale to detect depression in a community sample. TheAmerican Journal of Psychiatry, 137 (9), 1081-1084.

  • NOBLE, R.E. (2005). Depression in women. Metabolism, 54 (5),49-52.

  • ODRIOZOLA-GONZÁLEZ, P., PLANCHUELO-GÓMEZ, Á.,IRURTIA, M.J. & de LUIS-GARCÍA, R. (2020). Psychologicaleffects of the COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown among studentsand workers of a Spanish university. Psychiatry Research, 290,113108.

  • OZAMIZ-ETXEBARRIA, N., DOSIL-SANTAMARIA, M., PICAZA-GORROCHATEGUI, M. & IDOIAGA-MONDRAGON, N.(2020). Stress, anxiety, and depression levels in the initial stage ofthe COVID-19 outbreak in a population sample in the northernSpain. Cadernos de Saúde Pública, 36, e00054020.

  • ÖZDIN, S. & BAYRAK ÖZDIN, S. (2020). Levels and predictorsof anxiety, depression and health anxiety during COVID-19pandemic in Turkish society: The importance of gender.International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 66 (5), 504-511.

  • PAPPA, S., NTELLA, V., GIANNAKAS, T., GIANNAKOULIS, V.G.,PAPOUTSI, E. & KATSAOUNOU, P. (2020). Prevalence ofdepression, anxiety, and insomnia among healthcare workersduring the COVID-19 pandemic: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Brain, Behavior & Immunity, 88, 901-907.
  • PORCELLI, P. (2020). Fear, anxiety and health-related consequencesafter the COVID-19 epidemic. Clinical Neuropsychiatry, 17 (2),103-111.

  • QIU, J., SHEN, B., ZHAO, M., WANG, Z., XIE, B. & XU, Y. (2020).A nationwide survey of psychological distress among Chinesepeople in the COVID-19 epidemic: Implication and policyrecommendations. General Psychiatry, 33, e100213.

  • RADLOFF, L. (1977). The CES-D scale: A self-report depressionscale for research in the general population. Applied PsychologicalMeasurement, 1 (3), 385-401.

  • ¸REYNOLDS, D.L., GARAY, J.R., DEAMOND, S.L., MORAN, M.K.,GOLD, W. & STYRA, R. (2008). Understanding, complianceand psychological impact of the SARS quarantine experience.Epidemiology & Infection, 136 (7), 997-1007.

  • ROSSI, R., SOCCI, V., PACITTI, F., DI LORENZO, G., DI MARCO,A., SIRACUSANO, A. & ROSSI, A. (2020). Mental healthoutcomes among frontline and second-line health care workersduring the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic inItaly. JAMA Network Open, 5, e2010185-e2010185.

  • ROSSI, R., SOCCI, V., TALEVI, D., MENSI, S., NIOLU, C., PACITTI,F., … & DI LORENZO, G. (2020). COVID-19 pandemic andlockdown measures impact on mental health among the generalpopulation in Italy. An N= 18147 web-based survey. medRxiv.https:/
  • THORNTON, E.W., McQUEEN, C., ROSSER, R., KNEALE, T. &DIXON, K. (1997). A prospective study of changes in negativemood states of women undergoing surgical hysterectomy: THerelationship to cognitive predisposition and familial support.Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology, 18 (1), 22-30.

  • VIGLIONE, D.J. & GIROMINI, L. (2020). Inventory of Problems-29:Professional manual. Columbus, OH: IOP-Test, LLC.

  • VIGLIONE, D.J., GIROMINI, L. & LANDIS, P. (2017). Thedevelopment of the Inventory of Problems-29: A brief self-administered measure for discriminating bona fide from feignedpsychiatric and cognitive complaints. Journal of PersonalityAssessment, 99 (5), 534-544.

  • VILAGUT, G., FORERO, C.G., BARBAGLIA, G. & ALONSO, J.(2016). Screening for depression in the general population withthe Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression (CES-D): Asystematicreviewwithmeta-analysis.PloSOne,11(5),e0155431.

  • WANG, C., PAN, R., WAN, X., TAN, Y., XU, L., MCINTYRE, R.S.,… & HO, C. (2020). A longitudinal study on the mental healthof general population during the COVID-19 epidemic in China.Brain, Behavior & Immunity, 87, 40-48.

  • WENHAM, C., SMITH, J. & MORGAN, R. (2020). COVID-19:The gendered impacts of the outbreak. The Lancet, 395 (10227),846-848.

  • ZAUSZNIEWSKI, J.A. & GRAHAM, G.C. (2008). Comparisonof short scales to measure depressive symptoms in elders withdiabetes. Western Journal of Nursing Research, 31 (2), 219-234.


Related articles

Article info

Cite the article:

Author Surname Author Initial. Title. Publication Title. Year Published;Volume number(Issue number):Pages Used. doi:DOI Number.

Rizzo Sabrina . Giromini Luciano. Pignolo Claudia. Depression at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic: A CES-D survey before and during the lockdown. BPA Applied Psychology Bulletin. 2020;289(1):2-9. doi:10.26387/bpa.289.1.

Citation Tool

How to cite this article

Author Surname Author Initial. Title. Publication Title. Year Published;Volume number(Issue number):Pages Used. doi:DOI Number.

Rizzo Sabrina . Giromini Luciano. Pignolo Claudia. Depression at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic: A CES-D survey before and during the lockdown. BPA Applied Psychology Bulletin. 2020;289(1):2-9. doi:10.26387/bpa.289.1.