In the article, Leisure Engagement during COVID-19 and Its Association with Mental Health and Wellbeing in U.S. Adults, Shen and colleagues explore the relationship between leisure activities and the COVID-19 pandemic. The authors studied 503 American citizens to understand how the pandemic affected their leisure, mental health, and general well-being. The findings in the article suggest that engagement in leisure activities positively correlates with mental health. Some activities like exercise, reading, and spending time with family and friends helped protect people in overcoming psychological challenges associated with the pandemic. At the same time, the article notes that although there was an increase in leisure time in the country, this time was allocated to traditional activities and digital leisure. The preference for traditional leisure and digital activities can be explained by movement regulations like lockdowns and travel restrictions aimed at minimizing virus spread.
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted many spheres of life. Many people lost their jobs as factories and offices closed to reduce mass virus spread. As time progressed, workplaces developed new methods to allow employees to work from home, a model that became popular in jobs conducted in office settings. In addition to working from home, the pandemic affected after-work activities as the government restricted public gatherings such as churches, schools, and clubs. Consequently, people were forced to devise new ways of engaging in leisure. Under the new regulations, home-based leisure activities became popular, and individuals maximized the time spent in their homes.
While these disruptions positively affected people’s lives, they had far-reaching implications on their mental health. Semo & Frissa (2020) state that income loss and the inability to have physical contact with others contribute significantly to mental health challenges globally. Job loss contributed to uncertainty and reduced quality of life, with many people being forced to borrow and survive on loans. They add that the most common mental illnesses during the pandemic were stress, anxiety, and depression. Another issue that was occasioned by the pandemic is isolation. It leads to boredom and restlessness, which exacerbates mental health issues.
The study’s findings also indicate that some groups were more likely to be involved in leisure activities than others. The authors note that married adults or people with more income or education were more engaged in leisure. This is because married people can interact with their families at various levels. They are also more likely to have children who must play and participate in physical activities for growth. Higher-income individuals have more money to spend on leisure activities. This contrasts with low-income individuals who cannot afford to pay for recreational facilities such as gyms due to competing needs. Additionally, educated people are more knowledgeable about the benefits of leisure and, therefore, more willing to participate.
The authors state that promoting leisure activities is an effective way to enhance mental health during a pandemic like COVID-19. As discussed above, leisure activities reduce mental health illnesses. Consequently, governments improve public health objectives related to psychological issues by encouraging people to engage in leisure activities. One way to encourage people to engage in leisure activities is to avail information on their advantages. Another way to promote leisure activity uptake is to increase the number of leisure activities available to communities. By increasing public areas such as parks, nature walks, and playgrounds, policymakers can achieve better public health outcomes related to mental health.
The article has strengths and weaknesses. Its first strength is that it uses data collected from a large sample of people in the U.S.U.S., making the findings generalizable to the entire population. The study’s results can be applied to all citizens in the country since the sample is deemed representative. The findings inspire confidence in readers and policymakers, who can base their decisions on the results. In addition to generalizability, the large sample size makes it easier to establish cause-effect relationships that might exist between leisure activities and mental health. The sample size helped the authors identify the differences between the mental health conditions of people who engage in leisure activities and those who do not.
The other strength is that the authors use validated survey instruments to measure the parameters of interest. Some tools used to analyze the findings are the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-2) and the World Health Organization wellbeing index. Experts use them to research mental health issues globally. This improves the validity and reliability of the results implying that they are consistent and accurate. This strength is essential as the results discussed in the article can be replicated if a similar study were conducted on the same population.
The last strength examined in this discussion is the ability of the findings outlined in the article to solve real-world challenges. According to Mwita (2022), research examining societal issues should yield practical solutions for the challenges noted. In this article, the authors recommend engaging in leisure activities to overcome psychological challenges during a pandemic like COVID-19. They state that people’s engagement in leisure activities can be increased by educating them on their benefits. They also recommend financial support for people willing but unable to engage in leisure activities due to limited resources. Decision-makers in public health can implement these findings to overcome mental health in the future when another pandemic like COVID-19 emerges.
One of the article’s weaknesses is that it does not involve a control group. This makes it difficult to compare the mental wellness of the people who engaged in leisure activities during the pandemic and those who did not. Studies with a control group include participants who did not experience the parameter under investigation. This helps such studies establish a direct relationship between the intervention being examined and the outcomes. In this study, the control group is missing, meaning that the results only indicate an association between participating in leisure activities and mental health but cannot demonstrate causality. This exposes the findings to interference from other social happenings in the participants’ lives. For instance, better mental health in the people who engage in leisure activities might be because they have more resources or a more knowledgeable about the benefits of the activities.
Another weakness is that the article does not highlight the type and frequency of leisure activities that improve people’s mental health. This would have informed readers on the best activities to participate in and how often they should get involved. Consequently, people might choose unhealthy leisure activities like drug and alcohol consumption, adversely affecting their physical and mental well-being. Similarly, too much engagement in leisure activities can be counterproductive, reducing an individual’s mental wellness.
Mwita, K. (2022). Strengths and weaknesses of qualitative research in social science studies. International Journal of Research in Business and Social Science (2147- 4478), 11(6), 618–625. https://doi.org/10.20525/ijrbs.v11i6.1920
Semo, B., & Frissa, S. M. (2020, September 3). The Mental Health Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic: Implications for Sub-Saharan Africa. Psychology Research and Behavior Management. https://www.dovepress.com/the-mental-health-impact-of-the-covid-19-pandemic-implications-for-sub-peer-reviewed-fulltext-article-PRBM
Shen, X., MacDonald, M., Logan, S. W., Parkinson, C., Gorrell, L., & Hatfield, B. E. (2022). Leisure Engagement during COVID-19 and Its Association with Mental Health and Wellbeing in U.S.U.S. Adults. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(3), 1081. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19031081