Individual Differences and Changes in Subjective Wellbeing during the Early Stages of the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Description: The COVID-19 pandemic has considerably impacted many people’s lives. This study examined change in subjective wellbeing between December 2019 and May 2020, and how stress appraisals and coping strategies relate to individual differences and change in subjective wellbeing during the early stage of the pandemic. Data were collected at four time points from 979 individuals in Germany. Results based on discontinuous latent growth curve modeling showed that, on average, life satisfaction, positive affect, and negative affect did not change significantly between December 2019 and March 2020, but decreased between March and May 2020. Across the latter timespan, individual differences in life satisfaction were positively related to controllable-by-self and -other appraisals, active coping, self-distraction, and religion, and negatively related to threat appraisal and self-blame. Using instrumental support predicted an increase in life satisfaction over time. Individual differences in positive affect were positively related to challenge and controllable-by-self appraisals, and negatively related to threat appraisal and humor. Centrality appraisal predicted a decrease in positive affect over time. Individual differences in negative affect were positively related to threat appraisal, denial, substance abuse, self-blame, and humor, and negatively related to controllable-by-self appraisal. These findings imply that the COVID-19 pandemic represents not only a major medical and economic crisis, but also has a psychological dimension as it can be associated with both average levels and declines in key facets of people’s subjective wellbeing. Psychological practitioners should address these declines in subjective wellbeing with their clients and train them in the use of functional stress appraisals and effective coping strategies.

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