The psychological impact of ‘mild lockdown’ in Japan during the COVID-19 pandemic: A nationwide survey under a declared state of emergency

Tetsuya Yamamoto, Chigusa Uchiumi, Naho Suzuki, Junichiro Yoshimoto, Eric Murillo-Rodriguez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

131 Citations (Scopus)


This study examined the psychological distress caused by non-coercive lockdown (mild lockdown) in Japan. An online survey was conducted with 11,333 people (52.4% females; mean age = 46.3 ± 14.6 years, range = 18–89 years) during the mild lockdown in the seven prefectures most affected by COVID-19 infection. Over one-third (36.6%) of participants experienced mild-to-moderate psychological distress (Kessler Psychological Distress Scale [K6] score 5–12), while 11.5% reported serious psychological distress (K6 score ≥ 13). The estimated prevalence of depression (Patient Health Questionnaire-9 score ≥ 10) was 17.9%. Regarding the distribution of K6 scores, the proportion of those with psychological distress in this study was significantly higher when compared with the previous national survey data from 2010, 2013, 2016, and 2019. Healthcare workers, those with a history of treatment for mental illness, and younger participants (aged 18–19 or 20–39 years) showed particularly high levels of psychological distress. Psychological distress severity was influenced by specific interactional structures of risk factors: high loneliness, poor interpersonal relationships, COVID-19-related sleeplessness and anxiety, deterioration of household economy, and work and academic difficulties. Even when non-coercive lockdowns are implemented, people’s mental health should be considered, and policies to prevent mental health deterioration are needed. Cross-disciplinary public–private sector efforts tailored to each individual’s problem structure are important to address the mental health issues arising from lockdown.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9382
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - 02-12-2020
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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