Study shows where depression, anxiety strike during MCO

A resident at a PPR flat in Kuala Lumpur leans over the balcony to look out during the movement control order period.

PETALING JAYA: A new survey by think tank The Centre shows that nearly half of respondents reported negative well-being during the movement control order period, with those living in low-cost housing showing more severe signs of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and stress.

The study, which had a sample pool of 1,084 responses, was conducted from April 5 to 10.

It showed that 48% and 45% of respondents self-reported experiencing varying levels of anxiety and depression, with 34% reporting varying levels of stress. Of these, 22% of respondents self-reported severe and extremely severe anxiety, with 20% and 15% experiencing similar levels of depression and stress.

Residents at low-cost housing areas reported more signs of mental health issues with 25% to 32% classified as severe and extremely severe.

Higher crowding in housing units was also shown to affect mental health, with people living in crowded households reporting more extreme signs of depression, anxiety, and stress.

“The severity of negative emotions reported in households with high crowding are much higher (28%); approximately 1.5 times that reported by respondents in households with low crowding (19%),” the think tank said.

However, many of those living alone also reported negative mental well-being, with 54% of residents living alone acknowledging signs of depression, followed by 50% who reported anxiety and 37% who reported stress.

Younger respondents tended to report more signs of mental health issues, with over 60% of those aged 18 to 24 and 25 to 34 reporting depression, compared with only 14% to 39% of the older age groups (35 to 44, 45 to 54 and 55 and above).

“In terms of levels of severity, respondents from the 18 to 24 and 25 to 34 age groups reported up to two to three times more signs of severe and extremely severe negative emotions compared to those aged 55 and above,” the study added.

In terms of gender, a higher proportion of women in the sample exhibited severe or extremely severe signs of depression, anxiety and stress (21%, 26% and 18% respectively) compared to men (14%, 15% and 10% respectively).

The study highlighted a need for more qualified mental health professionals, including trained counsellors and volunteers to provide greater access to mental health facilities for all levels of society.

It also recommended that housing policies take into account mental well-being when it comes to designing and developing living spaces, especially for the lower income group who live in low-cost housing.

“While affordable housing has been a key issue in recent years, providing them should not be at the cost of sacrificing liveable conditions. This is important in minimising the socioeconomic gap,” it said.

About 57% of respondents identified as living in urban areas, with 76% coming from Selangor and Kuala Lumpur. Sixty-six percent of the respondents were female, 81% were Malay/Bumiputera and 42% were between the age of 25-34.

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