Crisis communication: Merkel’s speech took away many fear of Corona

Chancellor Angela Merkel at her TV address in March 2020.

Federal government / Steffen Kugler / handout via REUTERS

The ongoing corona pandemic is leading to greater psychological stress for many people. The lack of interaction with other people and a feeling of loss of control can increasingly lead to depression and anxiety disorders. A research team from the University of Duisburg-Essen has been conducting an ongoing study of changes in mental and health status during the pandemic since March 2020, reports the “Science Information Service”.

“We want to find out which factors are associated with a deterioration in the mental state and which are associated with relief,” explains study director and psychologist Martin Teufel.

One of these relieving factors is the issue of information. “The study clearly shows that those who subjectively feel well informed or have confidence in government measures suffer less from Covid-19-related fear or psychological stress,” says Teufel.

Good information prevents a feeling of loss of control

In the study, the researchers were able to clearly see from the data collected that the first televised address by Chancellor Angela Merkel in March 2020 also reduced fear and depression in the population. It was apparently perceived as good crisis communication. “This shows how important it can be in crisis situations for governments to provide transparent and understandable information in order to create trust. Conservative media can reach people in a targeted manner, ”says Teufel.

The reason: Those who feel informed during a crisis have less fear – and less psychological stress. The information must be packaged in a comprehensible manner for the recipient – in this case the general public. This alleviates the crippling feeling of loss of control. But not only good crisis communication gives people a better feeling: Teufel emphasizes that denial of the danger of the virus or conspiracy theories can also serve as psychological defense mechanisms.

Large parts of the total of 25,000 respondents have suffered from stress (65 percent) and fear of the virus (59 percent) since the outbreak of the pandemic. Teufel’s study shows that women and younger people in particular experience a high level of emotional stress. In the case of women, this may be due to the double burden of home office and homeschooling, according to the study – it has been proven that it is women in particular who bear this double burden in the pandemic. Younger people also often have concerns about their education. The lack of contact with their peers can also be a trigger for psychological problems.

Most at risk, however, are people with previous mental illnesses such as depression and personality disorders, emphasizes study director Martin Teufel. In the pandemic, those with previous illnesses often lack psychotherapeutic treatments and activities. The consequences include insomnia and listlessness.


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