Selecting and imagining rewarding activities during the COVID‐19 lockdown: Effects on mood and what moderates them

Jürgen Hoyer, Janina Charlotte Gabriela Dechmann, Tanja Stender, Jasmin Čolić
Published Online:
04 May 2021

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The COVID‐19 outbreak strongly restricted daily activities, creating a risk factor for negative affect and depression. This study assessed the immediate effects of a behavioural activation (BA) intervention on positive (PA) and negative (NA) state affect. We expected depression and anxiety to function as moderators reducing the intervention effects. In a quasi‐experimental online study, 3624 German‐speaking participants evaluated a list of rewarding activities between 9 April and 26 April 2020. A subsample of 2561 (71%) additionally engaged in an imagination task. Depression, anxiety, socioeconomic variables and COVID‐19 related burdens were assessed as moderators. There was an increase in PA (total sample d = .13; subsample: d = .27) and a decrease in NA (total sample d = −0.68; subsample: d = −0.71; all p < .001). The effects rose with higher levels of depression and anxiety (all p < .001). Furthermore, living with family enhanced the effects on NA, while additionally having to take care of children reduced them. An easy‐to‐use intervention prompting BA could improve state mood during lockdown. Participants with higher depression and anxiety benefit more. Implications for the prevention of mental health problems during a pandemic are discussed.

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