Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on inflammatory bowel disease: the role of emotional stress and social isolation

Boukje Yentl Nass*, Pauline Dibbets, C. Rob Markus

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Web of Science)

Abstract

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a chronic health condition exacerbated by negative emotional stress experiences. In the current study, we examined whether the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic coincided with an increase in stress experiences and accordingly an aggravation of disease activity in IBD patients. Sixty-three IBD patients (30 Crohn's disease or CD, 33 ulcerative colitis) completed an online survey during the COVID-19-related lockdown, assessing clinical disease activity, disease-related quality of life, presence of functional gastrointestinal symptoms, social isolation and stress experiences. Scores were then compared to pre-lockdown baseline screening. The pandemic yielded a significant baseline-to-lockdown increase in emotional stress and social isolation. Stress increments, particularly those occasioned by interpersonal tension and excessive interpersonal proximity, were associated with a worsening of functional gastrointestinal symptoms. Exacerbations of loneliness coincided with an escalation of CD activity, functional gastrointestinal symptoms and a decline in subjective health. Lastly, COVID-19 anxiety was significantly related to CD symptom severity and social dysfunction. The findings show that shifts in IBD expression are closely linked to changes in emotional stress experiences and interpersonal relatedness. As such, they contribute to a better understanding of inter-individual differences in IBD progression and provide leads for therapeutic interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)222-233
Number of pages12
JournalStress and Health
Volume38
Issue number2
Early online date17 Jul 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022

Keywords

  • ADULT ATTACHMENT
  • ANXIETY
  • BRAIN
  • COVID-19
  • CROHNS-DISEASE
  • HEALTH
  • PERCEIVED STRESS
  • PSYCHOLOGICAL STRESS
  • QUALITY-OF-LIFE
  • RESPONSES
  • ULCERATIVE-COLITIS
  • emotional stress
  • inflammatory bowel disease

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