On February 2020 COVID-19 was officially recognized as a new virus, never before seen in humans. COVID-19 quickly spread around the world, creating a global health and economic crisis. As of February, approximately 2,886,267 people have contracted the virus in the United States and 129,811 have died (WHO, 2020). Despite local efforts to control the outbreak, the US has experienced increasingly high number of cases, with states setting record number of daily infections. Some of those efforts have included sheltering in place, personal protective equipment policies and cessation of non-essential services. Consequently, the measures have increased the unemployment rate in the United States, which is currently at 11.1% (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020).
The social, economic and health consequences of COVID-19 have impacted the well-being of people living in the epicenters off the pandemic. Our community has been forced to physically distance themselves from others and dramatically change their work, school, and social activities for at least three months. According to a recent poll 48% of Americans interviewed are anxious about the possibility being infected with COVID‐19. Additionally, 40% of responders are anxious about becoming seriously ill or dying from COVID-19 (American Psychiatric Association, 2020).
ATOP Meaningful World has designed a research study to determine the level of traumatic stress experienced by Americans as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as their levels of post-traumatic growth, meaning-making, and forgiveness. The results from our pilot study are consistent with the emerging data. Half of responders felt anxious and had trouble relaxing as s result of the pandemic, while 80% admitted that they worry too much about different things. Similarly, half of the responders expressed that they established a new path for their lives and experienced changes in priorities from a moderate to a very great degree as a result of the crisis. This last result is consistent with the dramatic changes that our communities have undergone in the recent months.
Participants also experienced growth and showed resilience. Nearly half of responders (40%) expressed that as a result of their crisis they are able to do better things with their life while half expressed that they have a better understanding of spiritual matters (50%). Our aim is to assess our communities well being through time, so we expect to collect data over the course of one year. We expect to obtain further insight on the psychological impact of the pandemic as well as the trajectories for growth that participants will develop over time.