Worldwide prevalence of obsessive-compulsive symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic: A systematic review and meta-analysis.

Publication date: Apr 01, 2024

During the COVID-19 pandemic governments worldwide implemented contagion-containing measures (i. e., physical distancing, hand sanitizing, mask wearing and quarantine). The similarities between these measures and obsessive-compulsive phenomenology (e. g., contamination concerns and repetitive washing and/or checking) led to inquiries about the frequency with which obsessive-compulsive symptoms (OCS) were encountered during the COVID-19 pandemic. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to ascertain the prevalence of OCS in individuals of any age during the pandemic (i. e., any obsessive-compulsive symptoms that are clinically significant as shown by a score above the cut-off score of a scale, without necessarily fulfilling the diagnostic threshold for a diagnosis of OCD). A systematic search of relevant databases identified 35 studies, which were included in the systematic review following our inclusion and exclusion criteria. Most of the studies were conducted in adults from the general population and adopted an online assessment method, with 32 studies being eligible for meta-analysis. The meta-analysis resulted in a 20% average prevalence of OCS during the pandemic, with very high heterogeneity among the included studies (I 99. 6%). The highest prevalence of OCS was found in pregnant women (36%, n = 5), followed by individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 (22%, n = 4) and general population (22%, n = 19), undergraduates (21%, n = 5), and healthcare workers (5%, n = 5). The prevalence rates of OCS were higher in Asia (26%, n = 17) and North America (25%, n = 3) than in Europe (13%, n = 12) and Africa (7%, n = 4). Among the studies included, rates appeared higher in certain countries, though this difference did not reach statistical significance and was limited by very few studies conducted in certain countries. When compared to pre-pandemic rates, there seemed to be higher rates of OCS during the COVID-19 pandemic in Asia, Europe, and pregnant women. These findings are discussed considering the impact of the pandemic and contagion-containing measures on the perception and reporting of OCS, and susceptibility of the vulnerable population groups to experiencing OCS during the pandemic.

Concepts Keywords
Databases Contamination obsessions
Healthcare COVID-19
Pandemic Obsessive-compulsive symptoms
Undergraduates Pandemic
Worldwide Washing compulsions


Type Source Name
disease MESH COVID-19 pandemic
disease VO frequency
disease VO population
disease VO pregnant women
disease IDO susceptibility
disease MESH obsessions

Original Article

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