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Mood-Boosting Mask? Polish Study Points to Lower Anxiety Levels

October 13, 2020

They’re another thing to remember when heading out the door, they add to your laundry duties and they caused overheating this summer. But it seems the face masks we’re pulling on to prevent COVID-19 infection are giving us a much-needed feeling of comfort and strength.

According to research promoted in Psychology Today, those feelings can actually boost our mood. The research,  Psychopathological Responses and Face Mask Restrictions during the COVID-19 Outbreak, was conducted by a Polish team lead by Dorota Szczesniak. Using results from an anonymous online survey, they examined the connection between the country’s face mask guidelines and any associated behavioral health concerns. What they found was the mask mandates led to a decrease in mental health symptoms such as anxiety.

“COVID-19 leaves people feeling out of control, which is uncomfortable and unnerving,” said Dr. James O’Dea, vice president of operations with the Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network. “We’re driven to protect ourselves and loved ones from perceived threats and the uncertainty surrounding this situation escalates fears.”

The Polish researchers noted that possible factors leading to improved mood as a result of wearing masks include:

  • A sense of personal control in a situation like a pandemic in which one can feel helpless and, therefore, anxious. Wearing a mask is one way people can take charge of their personal risk, which boosts mental health.
  • Feeling “social cohesion” with others in society also wearing masks at a time when people are isolated and feel alone. The masks themselves then become symbols of social responsibility and unity.
  • The ability to hide negative emotions such as fear and anxiety behind the cloth masks while in public.
  • Using masks as a means of creative expression. People don masks emblazoned with “Black Lives Matter” and quotes by the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Masks support political candidates, match other accessories and celebrate holidays.

“There are a lot of things outside of our control. We have to think about the things we can control,” said Colleen Mulkerin, director of palliative care and social work at Hartford Hospital. “(That) will help us in this process.”