Publication date: Jun 27, 2023
Following the outbreak of the 2020 coronavirus, governments adopted non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to save lives. The NPIs have been deemed to have unintended consequences on mental health and well-being. This study aimed to estimate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic-induced school closures on the relative search volumes (RSVs) of well-being-relevant topics in 30 low and lower- middle income countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Google Trends search data, difference-in-differences and event study methods were used to evaluate the impact on the related search volume (RSV) of well-being related topic queries in Sub-Saharan Africa. The results suggest positive and significant increases in the search intensity for anger, boredom, fear, sleep, exercise, and prayer. Contrary to other studies, we find no discernible effects on the relative search volumes (RSVs) on loneliness, sadness, and suicide. Our findings suggest that the pandemic and the associated restrictions had a mixed effect on well-being-related searches. We recommend increased vigilance and proactive communication from the government and policy makers with the general population in times of emergencies when social policies that restrict lives and liberties need to be adopted.
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