Stratified changes in emotional distress during the COVID-19 pandemic : Evidence from a longitudinal survey of residents in Hubei province, China

Xi CHEN, Fen LIN*, Haiyan GAO, Yuchun ZOU

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on individuals' emotional wellbeing and mental health. However, little research has examined emotional resilience during the pandemic. This study investigated the changes in emotional distress among residents in Hubei, the epicenter of the pandemic in China during the early stage of the pandemic, and we examined the sociodemographic differences in their emotional recovery. 

Methods: We undertook a two-wave panel survey of 3816 residents aged ≥18 in Hubei, China. The baseline survey was conducted during early February 2020, the peak of the outbreak. The follow-up survey was carried out when the pandemic was mainly under control. The data enabled us to investigate the within-person changes in COVID-19-related negative emotions. Mixed-effect regression models with a random effect for participants were used to accommodate repeated measures. 

Results: Respondents reported high levels of emotional distress at the peak of the pandemic and experienced a decline in emotional distress when the pandemic was under control. Moreover, respondents aged 35–49, with a college education or above, were employed, and having better self-rated health experienced a more substantial decrease in negative emotions during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Conclusion: This study identified vulnerable populations who may experience prolonged emotional distress during the COVID-19 pandemic in China. The results suggest that respondents who aged over 50, with no college education, were not employed, and with worse self-rated health were less resilient during the COVID-19 pandemic in China.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110959
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Research
Early online date3 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the City University of Hong Kong, Center for Public Affairs and Law (#9609002) and National Social Science Fund of China (#16ZDA079). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022


  • China
  • COVID-19
  • Emotional distress
  • Panel data
  • Resilience
  • Socioeconomic disparity


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