Psychological distress during the COVID-19 pandemic: An integrative perspective

Michal Mahat-Shamir, Ester Zychlinski, Maya Kagan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Informed by socio-ecological psychology and the conservation of resources model, the present study proposes an integrative perspective on the association between psychological distress and a constellation of factors, during the COVID-19 outbreak in Israel. Our sample, comprised of 991 adult participants, was measured for psychological distress, locus of control (internal/ external), resilience, loneliness, social support, dimensions of citizens’ trust in government organizations (perceived competence, benevolence, and integrity), and demographic characteristics. The findings showed that women, non-religious people, and the unemployed reported higher levels of psychological distress. Internal locus of control, resilience, social support, and the extent to which citizens perceive government organizations as benevolent were negatively associated with psychological distress. Self-reported loneliness and external locus of control positively predicted the level of respondent psychological distress. No association was detected between age, competence and integrity and psychological distress. An overview of the research findings indicates that individuals with greater resources were less likely to suffer from psychological distress during the COVID-19 outbreak. These findings call upon mental health care practitioners to help as well as to enable clients to attain resources in order to lower their levels of psychological distress. Policies developed by policymakers during periods of acute crisis should consider the specific needs and vulnerabilities of certain population groups, including women and the unemployed who may be more susceptible to psychological distress. It is also important for policymakers to be aware that the perception of democratic governments as benevolent can serve as a buffer against psychological distress during times of crisis.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0293189
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10 October
StatePublished - Oct 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Mahat-Shamir et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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