Civic engagement and psychological distress during the COVID-19 pandemic



To examine the relationship between civic association participation and psychological distress during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly whether different forms of engagement mitigate the increased rates of psychological distress throughout 2020.


Panel survey data collected from a nationally representative cohort of 1222 U.S. adults. Data was collected in three waves in April, July, and November 2020. Psychological distress was measured using the validated Kessler-6 instrument in November 2020.


Respondents belonging to political associations were more likely to experience psychological distress (difference in predicted level of psychological distress on a 0-1 scale: 0.098, p ≤ .05) relative to those in unknown associations. However, individuals in political associations who more frequently interacted with others had lower levels of psychological distress (−.065, p ≤ .05) compared to those in political associations with less frequent interactions.


Civic engagement that facilitates interpersonal interactions may protect against psychological distress.

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