Psychosocial Correlates of Depression and Anxiety in the United Arab Emirates During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Justin Thomas, Zayed University
Mariapaola Barbato, Zayed University
Marina Verlinden, Zayed University
Carl Gaspar, Zayed University
Mona Moussa, Zayed University
Jihane Ghorayeb, Zayed University
Aaina Menon, Zayed University
Maria J. Figueiras, Zayed University
Teresa Arora, Zayed University
Richard P. Bentall, The University of Sheffield


© Copyright © 2020 Thomas, Barbato, Verlinden, Gaspar, Moussa, Ghorayeb, Menon, Figueiras, Arora and Bentall. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health is likely to be significant. Identifying vulnerable groups during the pandemic is essential for targeting psychological support, and in preparation for any second wave or future pandemic. Vulnerable groups are likely to vary across different societies; therefore, research needs to be conducted at a national and international level. This online survey explored generalized anxiety and depression symptoms in a community sample of adults (N = 1,039) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) between April 8th and April 22nd, 2020. Respondents completed symptom measures of depression (PHQ8) and generalized anxiety (GAD7), along with psychosocial and demographic variables that might potentially influence such symptoms. Bivariate and multivariate associations were calculated for the main study variables. Levels of anxiety and depression were notably higher than those reported in previous (pre-pandemic) national studies. Similar variables were statistically significantly associated with both depression and anxiety, most notably younger age, being female, having a history of mental health problems, self or loved ones testing positive for COVID-19, and having high levels of COVID-related anxiety and economic threat. Sections of the UAE population experienced relatively high levels of depression and anxiety symptoms during the early stages of the pandemic. Several COVID-related and psychosocial variables were associated with heightened symptomatology. Identifying such vulnerable groups can help inform the public mental health response to the current and future pandemics.