Comorbidity and COVID-19: investigating the relationship between medical and psychological well-being

Owen Stafford, Anna Berry, Laura K. Taylor, Sinead Wearen, Cian Prendergast, Eddie Murphy, Mark Shevlin, Louise McHugh, Alan Carr, Tom Burke*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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The unprecedented occurrence of a global pandemic is accompanied by both physical and psychological burdens that may impair quality of life. Research relating to COVID-19 aims to determine the effects of the pandemic on vulnerable populations who are at high risk of developing negative health or psychosocial outcomes. Having an ongoing medical condition during a pandemic may lead to greater psychological distress. Increased psychological distress may be due to preventative public health measures (e.g. lockdown), having an ongoing medical condition, or a combination of these factors. 


This study analyses data from an online cross-sectional national survey of adults in Ireland and investigates the relationship between comorbidity and psychological distress. Those with a medical condition (n128) were compared to a control group without a medical condition (n128) and matched according to age, gender, annual income, education, and work status during COVID-19. Participants and data were obtained during the first public lockdown in Ireland (27.03.202008.06.2020). 


Individuals with existing medical conditions reported significantly higher levels of anxiety (p<.01) and felt less gratitude (p≤.001). Exploratory analysis indicates that anxiety levels were significantly associated with illness perceptions specific to COVID-19. Post-hoc analysis reveal no significant difference between the number of comorbidities and condition type (e.g. respiratory disorders).


This research supports individualised supports for people with ongoing medical conditions through the COVID-19 pandemic, and has implications for the consideration of follow-up care specifically for mental health. Findings may also inform future public health policies and post-vaccine support strategies for vulnerable populations.

Original languageEnglish
JournalIrish Journal of Psychological Medicine
Publication statusAccepted - 05 Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© College of Psychiatrists of Ireland 2021.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Comorbidity
  • COVID-19
  • Ireland
  • Mental Health
  • Pandemic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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