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NZers In International Study Of COVID’s Impact On Depression And Other Mood Disorders

University of Otago, Christchurch researchers are part of an urgent international effort to understand how isolation and disruption of routines associated with COVID-19 are affecting people with mood disorders.

Mood disorders include bipolar disorder and depression. An estimated one in five New Zealanders live with a mood disorder.

The researchers are calling for people diagnosed with a mood disorder to be part of their online study. They hope to get information from about 200 New Zealanders and more than 2000 people worldwide. The experiences of people with mood disorders from America, Australia, Canada, and parts of Europe are also being sought by other Universities as part of the study effort. The researchers hope to have surveyed people and analysed the results within six to eight months.

University of Otago, Christchurch researcher and mood disorder expert Professor Richard Porter says lock-down has resulted in significant changes to people’s lives, including their ability to socialise with others or go about their usual work and personal routines. The international research effort aims to understand how this has impacted people with mood disorders. They are looking particularly at the impact on people’s daily routines such as getting out of bed, eating meals, exercising, socialising and sleep patterns, he says.

Professor Porter says experts believe mood disorders are particularly sensitive to disrupted rhythms – body rhythms and social rhythms. “This is a unique time when body and social rhythms have been disrupted, and the health of those people with mood disorders may also have been disrupted,” he says.

“We know that disruptions such as rotating shifts or long haul travel can cause people with mood disorders to become unwell. We think some of the negative impact on people with mood disorders of big life changes such as bereavement or job loss may also be related to the disruption of rhythms.”

Professor Porter says he and his team are already studying ways of reinforcing and embedding social and biological rhythms in the lives of people with mood disorders. “By studying this unique situation, we may be able to find better ways of dealing with any disruption to these rhythms and the resulting impact on people’s mood and quality of life.”

Professor Porter says having several countries involved means a lot of people can be studied. “Different countries have different levels of lockdown, will be at different stages when the study is done and are at in different seasons. It will be interesting to see if any differences emerge from that.”

Professor Porter says taking part in this study involves doing a 20 minute online survey that asks questions about things such as mood symptoms and sleep patterns during the lock-down. The survey can be found at

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