top of page
  • Avni Gulrajani

Unpacking the Impact of Public Policy on Mental Health During COVID-19

I recently read a research paper "Narrative Economics, Public Policy, and Mental Health" by Annie Tubadji, Frédéric Boy, and Don J. Webber extensively analyzes the relationship between public policy, economic narratives, and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. The authors utilize a unique approach called "narrative economics" to understand how public policy narratives affect mental health outcomes in different countries.


At the heart of the study is examining the psychological impact of public policy decisions during the pandemic. The authors chose Britain, Italy, and Sweden as case studies due to their varied policy responses to COVID-19. These ranged from strict lockdowns to relatively lax measures. By analyzing Google Trends data for keywords like "death" and "suicide," the researchers aimed to gauge the public's mental health response to these policies. This innovative method allowed them to capture real-time changes in public sentiment and anxiety levels.

The study reveals that cultural attitudes toward death and dying significantly influenced public reactions to the pandemic. In countries with a more anxious cultural disposition towards death, stricter lockdown measures were seen as more necessary, leading to a different set of mental health challenges compared to countries with a less anxious attitude towards death.

The research also highlights the interconnectedness of economic and psychological resilience. The authors argue that mental health is not only impacted by direct threats like a pandemic but also by the broader socio-economic context, which is heavily influenced by public policy. This finding is crucial, as it suggests that policy decisions have far-reaching implications beyond immediate economic outcomes, extending into public mental health.

Additionally, the paper discusses the concept of "culture-based development" (CBD), which underscores the importance of cultural factors in economic development and policy-making. The authors suggest that understanding and incorporating CBD into public policy could help mitigate adverse mental health outcomes in crisis situations like the COVID-19 pandemic.

The methodology used in this paper, narrative economics, is particularly noteworthy. By analyzing narrative trends and public sentiment through Google Trends, the researchers offer a novel way to understand the impact of public policy on mental health. This approach provides a more nuanced understanding of how narratives and perceptions shaped by policy decisions can influence public psychology.

In conclusion, the paper "Narrative Economics, Public Policy, and Mental Health" significantly contributes to the fields of economics, public policy, and mental health. It sheds light on the psychological impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and offers insights into how narrative economics can be used to understand complex socio-economic phenomena. The findings of this research are particularly relevant for policymakers, public health officials, and economists, providing them with a new framework to consider the mental health implications of their decisions.

My Thoughts

As someone deeply involved in mental health advocacy and research, this study is particularly resonant. The approach of narrative economics used in this paper is innovative, focusing on how the stories and narratives shaped by public policies influence public psychology, especially during the tumultuous times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study examines the mental health outcomes in Britain, Italy, and Sweden, countries with varying responses to the pandemic. It utilizes Google Trends data for keywords related to mental health, like "death" and "suicide," to gauge public sentiment. This method reveals real-time changes in public anxiety levels, providing a unique perspective on the psychological impact of policy decisions.

One of the key takeaways from this research is the significant role cultural attitudes toward death and dying play in shaping public reactions to the pandemic. This finding is crucial as it highlights the need for culturally sensitive policies, especially in times of global crisis.

Another aspect of the paper that strikes a chord with my experience is the interplay between economic and psychological resilience. The study suggests that mental health is influenced not only by direct threats like a pandemic but also by the broader socio-economic context. This aligns with my observations at YouthLine Oregon, where we see first-hand how economic and social environments impact the mental well-being of young people.

The concept of "culture-based development" (CBD) introduced in the study is another significant point of discussion. It suggests that understanding and incorporating cultural factors in economic development and policy-making could help mitigate adverse mental health outcomes in crises.

As we continue to navigate the uncharted waters of the COVID-19 pandemic, this paper serves as a reminder of the profound impact public policy decisions can have on mental health. It underscores the importance of narrative economics in understanding complex socio-economic phenomena and their psychological impacts.

In my subsequent blog posts, I will delve deeper into the implications of this study for mental health advocacy and policy-making. I will explore how we can apply these insights to enhance the mental health support provided to the community, especially during times of crisis.

The research by Tubadji, Boy, and Webber is not just a scholarly article; it is a call to action for policymakers, mental health professionals, and advocates. It emphasizes the need for informed, culturally sensitive, and empathetic policy-making that considers the psychological well-being of the public.

Stay tuned as we explore how we can use the lessons from this paper to shape policies that address economic and health crises and nurture our communities' mental well-being. Your thoughts and perspectives on this are invaluable, so please feel free to share them by reaching out directly.


bottom of page