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Environmental concern and openness toward refugees increased during the pandemic, along with psychological distress

Freiburg researchers investigate psychosocial impact during lockdown

Freiburg, Aug 13, 2021

Since the onset of the Covid 19 pandemic, people have increasingly found themselves in a social dilemma in which everyone has to weigh their own interests against those of the general public. Researchers Dr. Bastian Schiller, Daniel Toensing, Tobias Kleinert and Prof. Dr. Markus Heinrichs from the Department of Psychology at the University of Freiburg, together with Prof. Dr. Robert Böhm from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, have now investigated whether the pandemic situation promotes selfish or solidarity-based thinking and behavior. For this purpose, they evaluated a survey of 140 men living in Germany about psychological well-being, environmental concern and prejudices against refugees, before and during the first lockdown. They published their results in the U.S. journal Environment and Behavior. Schiller received funding for the project from the Baden-Württemberg Stiftung as part of its elite program for postdoctoral researchers.

Environmental concern increased, prejudices decreased

It was found that the first lockdown in the spring of 2020 led to a deterioration in mental well-being compared to the pre-pandemic period: Respondents were more anxious and depressed. "We see clear evidence of short-term negative effects of the pandemic measures on psychological well-being, which may also have long-term effects," says Bastian Schiller. In contrast, their environmental concern increased, particularly their belief in the vulnerability of the ecosystem. In addition, respondents reported less prejudice against refugees. "So there also seem to be positive transfer effects on our attitudes toward other global challenges such as climate change and the refugee situation," Schiller reports. Heinrichs adds, "These results should encourage policymakers that global collective action in times of Covid-19 offers new opportunities to now address global action in the face of increased openness to the issues of climate change and migration."


Original publication:
Schiller, B., Tönsing, D., Kleinert, T., Böhm, R., Heinrichs, M. (2021): Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic Nationwide Lockdown on Mental Health, Environmental Concern, and Prejudice Against Other Social Groups. In: Environment and Behavior. DOI: 10.1177/00139165211036991


Dr. Bastian Schiller
Department of Psychology
University of Freiburg
Tel.: 0176 210 54963

Franziska Becker
Office of Public Relations
University of Freiburg
Tel.: 0761/203-54271