Running on empty: a longitudinal global study of psychological well-being among runners during the COVID-19 pandemic

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Abstract

OBJECTIVES: There are indications that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound negative effect on psychological well-being. Here, we investigated this hypothesis using longitudinal data from a large global cohort of runners, providing unprecedented leverage for understanding how the temporal development in the pandemic pressure relates to well-being across countries.

DESIGN: Prospective cohort study.

SETTING: Global.

PARTICIPANTS: We used data from the worldwide Garmin-RUNSAFE cohort that recruited runners with a Garmin Connect account, which is used for storing running activities tracked by a Garmin device. A total of 7808 Garmin Connect users from 86 countries participated.

PRIMARY AND SECONDARY OUTCOME MEASURES: From 1 August 2019 (prepandemic) to 31 December 2020, participants completed surveys every second week that included the five-item WHO Well-Being Index (WHO-5). Pandemic pressure was proxied by the number of COVID-19-related deaths per country, retrieved from the Coronavirus Resource Centre at Johns Hopkins University. Panel data regression including individual- and time-fixed effects was used to study the association between country-level COVID-19-related deaths over the past 14 days and individual-level self-reported well-being over the past 14 days.

RESULTS: The 7808 participants completed a total of 125 409 WHO-5 records over the study period. We found a statistically significant inverse relationship between the number of COVID-19-related deaths and the level of psychological well-being-independent of running activity and running injuries (a reduction of 1.42 WHO-5 points per COVID-19-related death per 10 000 individuals, p<0.001).

CONCLUSIONS: This study suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative effect on the psychological well-being of the affected populations, which is concerning from a global mental health perspective.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere063455
JournalBMJ Open
Volume12
Issue9
Number of pages8
ISSN2044-6055
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022

Keywords

  • COVID-19/epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Pandemics
  • Prospective Studies
  • Universities

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