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The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: Rapid review of the evidence

This resource is available in English only.

The use of quarantine and isolation as methods to contain the spread of Covid-19 has raised questions about the impact of these measures on mental health and psychological wellness. This rapid evidence review synthesizes research on the psychological impacts of quarantine and isolation in previous infectious disease outbreaks (including SARS, Ebola, H1N1 and MERS). It explores the factors that can both contribute to and mitigate the effects on mental health and psychological wellbeing.

Mental health impacts of quarantine

In addition to considering the psychological impact of isolation and pre-quarantine predictive factors, this article outlines factors that impact mental health. This includes the duration of quarantine, fear of infection, frustration, boredom and lack of information.

Post-quarantine stressors include loss of income and the stigma of having experienced the illness. Factors that may mitigate the negative psychological impact include the following:

  • shorter quarantine and isolation times
  • adequate supplies and information
  • reducing boredom
  • communication
  • attention to the particular needs of healthcare workers
  • relating the benefits of isolation to the greater good and health of society

The findings of this rapid review can support public health frontline, policy and decision-makers to provide public guidance about how to manage being in quarantine or isolation.

Use this resource to

  • develop key public communications about mitigating the negative effects of physical distancing and quarantine during a pandemic;
  • inform public health interventions to promote population mental health as part of emergency preparedness and pandemic planning; and
  • identify groups at particular risk of negative psychological impacts of isolation and quarantine and develop strategies to attend to their needs both preventively and acutely.


Brooks, S.K., Webster, R.K., Smith, L.E., Woodland, L., Wessely, S., Greenburg, N., Rubin, G.J. (2020). The Psychological Impact of Quarantine and How to Reduce It: Rapid Review of the Evidence. The Lancet; 395:912-920.

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Tags: COVID-19, Infectious disease, Mental Health, Link

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