Pandemic negatively affects mental health of introverts, U of A study finds

Anahita Shokrkon’s study based on online survey with nearly 1,100 responses

Kashmala Fida Mohatarem · CBC News · Posted: Sep 14, 2021 8:00 AM MT | Last Updated: September 14

Anahita Shokrkon, a PhD student in psychology at the University of Alberta, studied the effects of the pandemic on the mental health of introverts and extroverts. (Submitted by Anahita Shokrkon)

Introverts may rejoice at cancelled plans and a lack of social interactions during the COVID-19 pandemic, but a new study from the University of Alberta says the isolation might not be good for their mental health.

Anahita Shokrkon, a PhD student in the U of A’s department of psychology, conducted the study in the summer of 2020 and found that higher extroversion was associated with better mental health.

Introversion, however, was associated with more mental health issues.

“Extroverts in general have better mental health. They are happier, they have more positive affect, and they can keep this positive outlook longer,” Shokrkon told CBC’s Edmonton AM on Monday. 

Shokrkon also observed that introverts in the study were having a harder time connecting with people during the pandemic while extroverts were finding ways to connect with others.

“I consider myself an extrovert and during the winter in Edmonton, any kind of in-person interaction was nearly impossible,” she said. “I had Zoom gatherings with my friends. We played online. And I think this was very important for my mental health during that time.”

A self-proclaimed extreme extrovert, Shokrkon decided to look into the effects of the pandemic on introverts after comparing her own experience dealing with isolation with friends.

Anahita Shokrkon is a PhD student in the department of psychology – and just completed a study on the effects of the pandemic on both personality types. 6:23

Sasha Stanojevic, a 3D animator in Edmonton and an introvert, said the pandemic has helped him stay out of social situations without feeling guilty or coming off as rude. 

“I felt like it actually relieved a lot of the sort of social pressure to go out and have those different engagements, whether it be at dinners or parties or other sort of social obligations,” he said.

Stanojevic lives with his partner and connects with his family, who live out of town, via phone calls. “That pretty much satisfied my needs for social interaction,” he said. 

Shokrkon said individual experiences will always differ.

Her  study, published earlier this year in the journal PLOS One, used data from an online survey with nearly 1,100 responses from adults living in Canada.

Instead of looking at the information from individuals who responded, researchers analyzed the group data instead.

She said it is completely possible that some extroverts are having a harder time during the pandemic while some introverts have loved the isolation, but her study shows what’s true for a majority. 

She also explained that introversion and extroversion are on a spectrum. “Most people could be maybe in the middle, or people could be anywhere on the spectrum,” she said.

She said her research could be beneficial for public health services, in providing the right tools and services for people dealing with mental health issues, based on personality. 

“Something we should know is that different people with different personality types may cope with the post-pandemic world differently, so there should be appropriate mental health services provided for them,” she said.