Hopelessness During COVID-19 Pandemic Mediated by Social Support and Meaning in Life

Woman with face mask in her home during stay at home order. Cleaning, and longing to get outside. COVID-19. March 2020
The researchers investigated the recovery model of hopelessness through interpersonal pathways of the COVID-19 epidemic.

During the pandemic, the negative relationship between hopelessness and social support was partially mediated by meaning in life and risk level, according to results of a population survey, the results of which were published in Personality and Individual Differences.

From January 28 to February 8, 2020, researchers from the Central China Normal University invited individuals living in 34 provinces in China to complete a questionnaire about hopelessness. The questionnaires included the instruments Perceived Social Support Scale (PSSS), Meaning in Life Questionnaire (MLQ), and Hopelessness Scale.

Participants (N=2501) were 31.1% men and had a mean age of 32.65±11.57 years. A subset of individuals was living in Wuhan (n=455).

Perceived social support was correlated with meaning in life (r, 0.33; P <.001) and hopelessness (r, -0.36; P <.001) and hopelessness with meaning in life (r, -0.31; P <.001).

Hopelessness was found to predict perceived social support (b, -0.279; t, -14.43; P <.001), meaning in life (b, -0.216; t, -11.13; P <.001), age (b, -0.053; t, -2.86; P <.01), and gender (b, -0.080; t, -2.02; P <.05). Meaning in life predicted age (b, 0.087; t, 4.61; P <.001), perceived social support (b, 0.269; t, 9.76; P <.001), and living in Wuhan (b, -0.162; t, -3.15; P <.01).

The direct effect between hopelessness and perceived social support was partially mediated by living in Wuhan (effect ratio, 13.17%), other regions in Hubei (effect ratio, 11.49%), and other provinces (effect ratio, 11.93%).

Stratified by the 3 regions, PSSS scores did not differ from 0 for those living in Wuhan, were positive for other regions of Hubei, and were negative for other provinces. MLQ scores were negative for Wuhan, positive for other regions of Hubei, and 0 for other provinces. Hopelessness scores were positive for Wuhan and other provinces and negative for other regions of Hubei.

During the lower risk time period, perceived social support was positively related with meaning in life (direct effect, 0.12; P <.01). The higher-risk time period had a significant negative impact on meaning in life (direct effect, -0.16; P <.01).

This study was conducted early in the pandemic, and it remains unclear how patterns of hopelessness have shifted as the pandemic has persisted worldwide.

These data indicated that perception of social support negatively affected hopelessness, which was partially mediated by meaning in life. The region in which an individual lives and the level of risk had differential effects on hopelessness, perceived social support, and meaning in life.


Zuo B, Yang K, Yao Y, Han S, Nie S, Wen F. The relationship of perceived social support to feelings of hopelessness under COVID-19 pandemic: the effects of epidemic risk and meaning in life. Pers Individ Dif. 2021;183:111110. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2021.111110

This article originally appeared on Psychiatry Advisor