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Evaluation of Stress during the COVID-19 Pandemic in a Mexican population - COVIDiSTRESS International Project



The objective of this first report is to disseminate the descriptive results of the sample that responded to the global COVIDistress survey ( in Mexico between March 30 and April 30, 2020, to offer a first overview of the level of stress perceived in this population and assess some of the findings presented. The following descriptive results are included: demographic data of the sample, isolation situation, perceived stress level, perceived stress by sex, age and isolation condition, comparative stress with other countries, main sources of stress, concern about the consequences of COVID -19, coping strategies, trust in the government and compliance with social distancing measures.
Evaluation of Stress during the COVID-19
Pandemic in a Mexican population
COVIDiSTRESS International Project
Descriptive Report of data collected from March 30th to April 30th, 2020
Principal Investigator: Andreas Lieberoth (Aarhus University),
Report Editor: F. Pérez-Gay Juárez (McGill University)
Data cleaning and code: R. Flores González & C.R. Castro-López (Veracruzana University)
Report Authors: F. Pérez-Gay Juárez (McGill University), V. Reynoso-Alcántara (Veracruzana University),
C. Contreras Ibáñez (Autonomous Metropolitan University, Iztapalapa Unit), R. Flores González
(Veracruzana University), C.R.Castro-López (Veracruzana University), L. Martínez (University of California,
Merced) COVIDiSTRESS México Group
Data collection and collaboration: COVID-Stress International Collaboration
On March 11th 2020, the outbreak of COVID-19, a disease caused by the novel
coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, was officially declared a global pandemic by the World Health
Organization. This declaration, along with the protection measures executed in each
country, generated changes in the lives of millions of people and created a global
environment of uncertainty. The pandemic combined a series of situations that affect the
mental health of the population: long term quarantines imposed by authorities, fear of
infection, frustration, boredom, lack of supplies, inadequate, abundant and alarmist
information, financial loss, perception of social threat and the stigma associated with the
disease (Bao et al., 2020; Brooks et al. 2020; Garfin et al., 2020). Thus, the relevance of
studying mental health in relation to this health crisis in the general population and in
vulnerable groups has been established within the scientific community (Holmes et al.,
The COVIDiSTRESS Project is, in the words of its founders, “a collaborative
psychology project under extreme circumstances”. Initiated, driven and led by Dr. Andreas
Lieberoth and a group of scientists from the University of Aarhus, Denmark, this transcultural
project seeks to collect data on experiences, behavior and attitudes of people around the world
during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through an anonymous online survey, the project seeks to
identify the factors that generate psychological stress, document the level of compliance with
local norms to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and measure trust in governments and
their preventative measures. The survey was translated to 52 different languages and
distributed in more than 50 countries.
In this context, our team of Mexican researchers (“Equipo México”) has carried out
a first stage of dissemination of the COVIDiSTRESS global survey since March 30th
through web portals, social networks, and our respective university news outlets, as well as
via emails and text messages to groups and individuals associated or known to the members
of this research team. As a result of this effort, that we refer to as the ‘first wave’ of diffusion
and participation, we have obtained 6424 responses of Mexican participants out of 158771
responses on a global scalewherein participants completed more than 80% of the
questionnaire. Mexico reached the 5th place in highest participation worldwide.
We consider that it is necessary to have a diagnosis of the consequences of this
pandemic on mental health in Mexico. Thus, the objective of this first report is to offer a first
overview of the level of perceived stress in the Mexican population that responded to the
survey and assess some of the presented findings.
Included are the following descriptive reports: demographic data of the sample,
isolation status, level of perceived stress, perceived stress by sex/gender, age and isolation
status, stress compared to other countries, main sources of stress, concerns over the
consequences of COVID-19, coping strategies, trust in governments and compliance with
social/physical distancing measures.
Demographic description
Participation was concentrated in the following states: Mexico City (n = 1739),
Veracruz (n = 1349), Estado de Mexico (n = 606), Jalisco (n = 345) & Nuevo León (n = 243).
These five states account for 66.65% of the participation. However, responses were collected
from throughout the country.
The respondents were 1715 males (27%), 4643 females (72%), and 31 individuals
which identified with ‘other’ as a gender or chose not to mention any identification (0.5%).
Another 35 individuals left this question unanswered. The observed average age of
respondents was 38 (SD = 13.82), with the highest participation between 21 to 30 years of
Note: 1% of participants did not identify as binary, or did not respond the age question.
Regarding educational level, most participants have a bachelor’s degree or graduate
studies. In terms of employment status, most participants were either full time employees or
self-employed when they responded.
The survey also asked about the participants’ current social/physical distancing
status during the pandemic. Most reported being in isolation (66.5%), while 31.3% said
they continued daily life with minor changes, 2% continued daily life without changes, and
0.2% were in isolation in a medical facility.
Level of stress in Mexico
To measure the level of stress, the 10-item version of the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS-
10, Cohen et al., 1983) validated by González and Landero (2007) for Mexican population
was used. The scale measures perceived stress in the previous week exploring aspects such
as loss of control over events, pressure to overcome difficulties and negative feelings about
unexpected changes. The result is a number between 1 and 5 that is categorized in three
levels, low (1-2.4), moderate (2.5-3.7) and high (more than 3.7). The general average of the
global stress index for this Mexican sample was M = 2.71 (SD = 0.74), which corresponds
to a moderate level of stress. Some 11% of the sample (711 individuals) reported high levels
of stress. The distribution of stress levels within the population can be observed in the
following figure.
In terms of gender, women report higher levels of stress than men. On the other
hand, individuals that identified as non-binary reported even higher levels of stress
compared to the aforementioned groups.
Somewhat counterintuitively, if we consider the groups at high risk for severe illness,
we observe that it is the younger population that reports higher levels of perceived stress. The
relationship between age and stress is inversely proportional.
Another variable of interest is the individual’s isolation status. The following graph
indicates that those who reported being in isolation (66.5%), also reported higher levels of
stress than those whom reported continuing their lives without changes (2%).
An interactive visualization of the levels of stress by age, sex/gender, isolation status,
other demographic variables or the combination of these variables can be found here:
Levels of stress in Mexico compared to other countries
Compared to the rest of the world, stress in Mexico in this sample was neither among
the highest nor the lowest. Out of the countries with more than 500 responses to the survey,
Turkey and Brazil show higher levels of perceived stress, while the countries lower in the
graph show lower levels of perceived stress.
Sources of distress in Mexico
Participants responded how much they considered diverse situations as sources of
distress on a scale from 1 to 6. From this list of potential stressors related to COVID-19 (listed
to the left of the graph), participants reported higher levels of stress for (red-orange dots): 1)
the national economy, 2) risk of COVID-19 infection, 3) risk of hospitalization, and 4)
concerns over friends and family members that live far away. Dealing with children during
the quarantine and children’s education (green dots), do not appear to be a strong source of
concern amongst the Mexican population. The major stressor, the national economy,
coincides with the findings in the European analysis (Travaglino, 2020).
In a series of questions inquiring about concern of the consequences of COVID-19,
participants reported increased concern for family, followed by the future of the country.
Overall, all questions resulted in considerable levels of concern.
Coping strategies in Mexico
From the list of coping strategies that were investigated in the survey, Mexicans
reported that the most helpful activities to cope with stress were: 1) dedication to their
hobbies, 2) long distance interaction with family and friends, 3) watching television and 4)
dedication to their work. For the Mexicans that responded to the survey, information from
the government, religion, and videogames are not among the most helpful coping strategies.
Trust in institutions
Using the OCDE guidelines for measuring trust, six questions were formulated to
explore participants’ trust in diverse entities, within them the World Health Organization, the
country’s government, administrative public institutions, and the country’s healthcare
system. Another question was added to assess how much the population trusts the measures
implemented by the government to combat the pandemic.
While the population that responded to the survey reports high levels of trust in the
WHO, trust in Mexican institutions ranges from medium to low, with the Secretary of Health
as the most trusted national body and law enforcement (police) as the least trusted body.
Trust in the government’s effort to control the pandemic is at medium level.
Compliance with governmental measures
We report the responses of 2 items in which we asked participants how much they
have complied with social/physical distancing measures imposed by their government, using
a scale from 1 to 6. It is observed that the majority of people report doing everything possible
to remain out of public spaces.
Open science and open access
The COVIDiSTRESS global survey is an international scientific collaboration, a
result of the efforts of researchers of more than 40 countries to quickly and organically collect
data about human experiences during this SARS-CoV2 2020 pandemic.
This executive summary focuses on the levels of perceived stress, sources of distress,
coping strategies, trust in institutions and compliance with distancing measures in Mexico.
Data collection remains active (see data collection protocol at and further analyses
will be released as we receive new data. As an open science project, anyone with an interest
can access the database and lists of variables, including those that were not analyzed in this
Final considerations
The findings presented here are limited to the respondents of this survey. It is
necessary to state that the participants of this study have sociodemographic characteristics
that may not be entirely representative of the Mexican population. Mainly, the participants
have a high level of education and are mostly women. Additionally, the method of
dissemination implies the need to have access to an electronic device with internet connection
to participate.
To cite this report:
Pérez-Gay Juárez, F., Reynoso-Alcántara, V., Flores González. R., Contreras-Ibáñez, C.,
Castro-López, C., Martínez, L. & The COVID-Stress International Collaboration (2020).
Evaluation of Stress during the COVID-19 Pandemic in a Mexican population. Report
of the results of the COVIDISTRESS global survey.
To cite the COVIDiSTRESS database:
COVIDiSTRESS global survey network (2020) COVIDiSTRESS global survey. DOI
10.17605/OSF.IO/Z39US, Retrieved from
The historical and updated database can be found here: /
Bao, Y., Sun, Y., Meng, S., Shi, J., & Lu, L. (2020). 2019-nCoV epidemic: Address mental
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Brooks, S. K., Webster, R. K., Smith, L. E., Woodland, L., Wessely, S., Greenberg, N., &
Rubin, G. J. (2020). The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid
review of the evidence. The Lancet, 395(10227), 912920.
Cohen, S., Kamarck, T., & Mermelstein, R. (1983). A global measure of perceived stress.
Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 24(4), 385-396.
Garfin, D. R., Silver, R. C., & Holman, E. A. (2020). The novel coronavirus (COVID-2019)
outbreak: Amplification of public health consequences by media exposure. Health
Psychology, 39(5), 355-357.
González, T. & Landero, R. (2007). Factor structure of the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) in a
sample from Mexico. Spanish Journal of Psychology, 10(1), 199206.
Holmes, E. A., O’Connor, R. C., Perry, V. H., Tracey, I., Wessely, S., Arseneault, L., Ballard,
C., Christensen, H., Cohen Silver, R., Everall, I., Ford, T., John, A., Kabir, T., King, K.,
Madan, I., Michie, S., Przybylski, A. K., Shafran, R., Sweeney, A., Bullmore, E.
(2020). Multidisciplinary research priorities for the COVID-19 pandemic: a call for
action for mental health science. The Lancet Psychiatry.
Travaglino, Giovanni A. (2020) How is the COVID19 Pandemic Affecting Europeans'
Lives? Technical report. Open Science Framework, Kent, UK
10.13140/RG.2.2.30558.59209. (doi:10.13140/RG.2.2.30558.59209) (KAR id:81028)
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
The 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-2019) has led to a serious outbreak of often severe respiratory disease, which originated in China and has quickly become a global pandemic, with far-reaching consequences that are unprecedented in the modern era. As public health officials seek to contain the virus and mitigate the deleterious effects on worldwide population health, a related threat has emerged: global media exposure to the crisis. We review research suggesting that repeated media exposure to community crisis can lead to increased anxiety, heightened stress responses that can lead to downstream effects on health, and misplaced health-protective and help-seeking behaviors that can overburden health care facilities and tax available resources. We draw from work on previous public health crises (i.e., Ebola and H1N1 outbreaks) and other collective trauma (e.g., terrorist attacks) where media coverage of events had unintended consequences for those at relatively low risk for direct exposure, leading to potentially severe public health repercussions. We conclude with recommendations for individuals, researchers, and public health officials with respect to receiving and providing effective communications during a public health crisis. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).
Full-text available
The aim of this study was to analyze the cultural adaptation of the European Spanish version of the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS; Cohen, Kamarak, & Mermelstein, 1983), for its use in Mexican samples. Using a random sample of students, internal consistency was analyzed and the factor structure of the Spanish version of the PSS was compared with the factor structure found in the English version. Internal consistency was adequate (alpha = .83) and confirmatory factor analysis corroborated the factor structure. Factor 1 explained 42.8% of the variance and Factor 2 accounted for 53.2%. The goodness-of-fit measures also revealed an adequate fit. The cultural adaptation of the PSS was also evaluated with satisfactory results.
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is having a profound effect on all aspects of society, including mental health and physical health. We explore the psychological, social, and neuroscientific effects of COVID-19 and set out the immediate priorities and longer-term strategies for mental health science research. These priorities were informed by surveys of the public and an expert panel convened by the UK Academy of Medical Sciences and the mental health research charity, MQ: Transforming Mental Health, in the first weeks of the pandemic in the UK in March, 2020. We urge UK research funding agencies to work with researchers, people with lived experience, and others to establish a high level coordination group to ensure that these research priorities are addressed, and to allow new ones to be identified over time. The need to maintain high-quality research standards is imperative. International collaboration and a global perspective will be beneficial. An immediate priority is collecting high-quality data on the mental health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic across the whole population and vulnerable groups, and on brain function, cognition, and mental health of patients with COVID-19. There is an urgent need for research to address how mental health consequences for vulnerable groups can be mitigated under pandemic conditions, and on the impact of repeated media consumption and health messaging around COVID-19. Discovery, evaluation, and refinement of mechanistically driven interventions to address the psychological, social, and neuroscientific aspects of the pandemic are required. Rising to this challenge will require integration across disciplines and sectors, and should be done together with people with lived experience. New funding will be required to meet these priorities, and it can be efficiently leveraged by the UK's world-leading infrastructure. This Position Paper provides a strategy that may be both adapted for, and integrated with, research efforts in other countries.
The December, 2019 coronavirus disease outbreak has seen many countries ask people who have potentially come into contact with the infection to isolate themselves at home or in a dedicated quarantine facility. Decisions on how to apply quarantine should be based on the best available evidence. We did a Review of the psychological impact of quarantine using three electronic databases. Of 3166 papers found, 24 are included in this Review. Most reviewed studies reported negative psychological effects including post-traumatic stress symptoms, confusion, and anger. Stressors included longer quarantine duration, infection fears, frustration, boredom, inadequate supplies, inadequate information, financial loss, and stigma. Some researchers have suggested long-lasting effects. In situations where quarantine is deemed necessary, officials should quarantine individuals for no longer than required, provide clear rationale for quarantine and information about protocols, and ensure sufficient supplies are provided. Appeals to altruism by reminding the public about the benefits of quarantine to wider society can be favourable.
This paper presents evidence from three samples, two of college students and one of participants in a community smoking-cessation program, for the reliability and validity of a 14-item instrument, the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), designed to measure the degree to which situations in one's life are appraised as stressful. The PSS showed adequate reliability and, as predicted, was correlated with life-event scores, depressive and physical symptomatology, utilization of health services, social anxiety, and smoking-reduction maintenance. In all comparisons, the PSS was a better predictor of the outcome in question than were life-event scores. When compared to a depressive symptomatology scale, the PSS was found to measure a different and independently predictive construct. Additional data indicate adequate reliability and validity of a four-item version of the PSS for telephone interviews. The PSS is suggested for examining the role of nonspecific appraised stress in the etiology of disease and behavioral disorders and as an outcome measure of experienced levels of stress.