Vulnerability to COVID-19-Related Disability: The Impact of Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms on Psychosocial Impairment During the Pandemic
J Trauma Stress. 2021 Jul 10. doi: 10.1002/jts.22717. Online ahead of print. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many individuals have experienced disruptions in social, occupational, and daily life activities. Individuals with mental health difficulties, particularly those with elevated posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS), may be especially vulnerable to increased impairment as a result of COVID-19. Additionally, demographic factors, such as age, gender, and race/ethnicity, may impact individual difficulties related to the pandemic. The current study examined the concurrent and prospective associations between posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, broader anxiety and depression symptoms, and COVID-19-related disability. Participants recruited through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (N = 136) completed questionnaire batteries approximately 1 month apart during the COVID-19 pandemic (i.e., Wave 1 and Wave 2). The results indicated that PTSD, anxiety, and depressive symptoms were all associated with increased COVID-19-related disability across assessment points, rs = .44-.68. PTSD symptoms, specifically negative alterations in cognition and mood, significantly predicted COVID-19-related disability after accounting for anxiety and depressive symptoms as well as demographic factors, βs = .31-.38. Overall, these findings suggest that individuals experiencing elevated PTSS are particularly vulnerable to increased functional impairment as a result of COVID-19 and suggest a need for additional outreach and clinical care among individuals with elevated PTSD symptoms during the pandemic.