The emotional well-being of Long COVID patients, widening social support and stigmatization in health and social services: a qualitative study

The emotional well-being of Long COVID patients, widening social support and stigmatization in health and social services: a qualitative study

Background: Long COVID patients have experienced a decline in their quality of life due to, in part but not wholly, its negative emotional impact. Some of the most prevalent mental health symptoms presented by long COVID patients are anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders. As such, the need has arisen to analyze the personal experiences of these patients to understand how they are managing their daily lives while dealing with the condition. The objective of this study is to increase understanding about the emotional well-being of people diagnosed with long COVID.

Methods: A qualitative design was created and carried out using 35 patients, with 17 participants being interviewed individually and 18 of them taking part in two focus groups. The participating patients were recruited in November and December 2021 from Primary Health Care (PHC) centers in the city of Zaragoza (Northern Spain) and from the Association of Long COVID Patients in Aragon. The study topics were emotional well-being, social support networks, and experience of discrimination. All an inductive thematic content analyses were performed iteratively using NVivo software.

Results: The Long COVID patients identified low levels of self-perceived well-being due to their persistent symptoms, as well as limitations in their daily lives that had been persistent for many months. Suicidal thoughts were also mentioned by several patients. They referred to anguish and anxiety about the future as well as a fear of reinfection or relapse and returning to work. Many of the participants reported that they have sought the help of a mental health professional. Most participants identified discriminatory situations in health care.

Conclusions: It is necessary to continue researching the impact that Long COVID has had on mental health, as well as to provide Primary Health Care professionals with evidence that can guide the emotional treatment of these patients.

Keywords: Emotional well-being; Long COVID; Qualitative study; Social support; Stigmatization.

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