The weird side effect of COVID-19 no one is really talking about

We’re more than five months into the COVID-19 pandemic and new symptoms are still emerging.

For the most part, the worst the respiratory disease has to offer has been likened to a particularly bad bout of flu. However, a growing number of confirmed cases have begun to report psychological side effects previously unreported.

First, it was neuropathies, like strokes and trembling, then it was balding and weight gain, and now patients are citing alterations to the way they perceive the passing of time.

Similarly to the reports of shock trauma appearing in recent coronavirus analysis, time perception was impacted by various parameters of the pandemic as opposed to the disease funding it.

In a new study published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, participants were asked if they felt the time was moving slower than normal.

More than 40% were confident that time has been passing much quicker than it had before SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks began, while another 40% said that they felt the time had slowed down in that same window.

Only 19% of people surveyed felt that time was passing at a normal rate.

“These lockdown measures caused significant changes to all aspects of daily life. The current study examined how the passage of time was distorted during the lockdown period. Using an online questionnaire, day and week passage of time judgments were collected. In addition, measures of effect, task load, and satisfaction with current levels of social interaction were taken,” the authors wrote in the new paper. “These findings demonstrate that significant changes to daily life have a significant impact on our experience of time, with younger, more socially satisfied people more likely to experience time as passing more quickly during the lockdown.”

Distorted perceptions of time

According to the study’s lead researcher, Ruth S. Ogden of Liverpool John Moores University, U.K there are four main factors influencing the majority–none of which are directly related to the COVID-19 disease.

For a start, respondents over the age of 60 were determined to disproportionately occasion increasingly slower passages of time,

“Eighty percent of people experienced distortion to the passage of time during the lockdown. Lockdown passing more slowly than normal was associated with older age and reduced satisfaction with social interactions,” Dr, Ogden explained in Science Daily.

Disposition was the next most influential factor.

More directly, the more satisfied or happy participants were with respect to their habitual social interactions, the quicker time seemed to pass.

Conversely, prolonged stress yielded a robust relationship with slower perceptions of time.

“A slowing of the passage of time was associated with increasing age, increasing stress, reduced task load, and reduced satisfaction with current levels of social interaction. Only age and satisfaction with current levels of social interaction predicted passage of time across a week,” the authors continued.

Influential stress markers, subsumed: living alone, employment status, degrees of physical activity, and perceived risk of contracting COVID-19.

The least surprising citing concerned task load. Participants who reported being busier on the day to day experienced time more quickly.

“The societal and behavioral changes as a result of these measures have been significant. Children, except those of key workers, are unable to attend school. Homeworking has increased, as has unemployment and the temporary furloughing of employees. People residing in different households are no longer permitted to interact with one another, severely limiting the opportunity for face-to-face socialization for many people. Such substantial changes to daily life will have significant consequences for the way in which people experience the world around them,” the authors concluded.