Our mental well-being is heading in the right direction

May 26th 2020

On Tuesday, 50,000 people took part in eleventh wave of UAntwerp’s Big Corona Study  

Since the first relaxations in early May, the mental well-being of Belgians has been going in the right direction, although there is a small but growing group with indications of psychological problems. These and other interesting findings emerged from the weekly Big Corona Study. 

Tuesday saw the eleventh wave of the Big Corona Study of the University of Antwerp. Scientists from the University of Antwerp are working together with colleagues from UHasselt, KU Leuven and ULB, and can count on financial support from the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO). Just under 50,000 Belgians took some time again this Tuesday to answer the questions. For the second week in a row, a separate children’s questionnaire was also organised for six to twelve-year-olds.  

Last week, 70,000 people took part. The steady decline is quite logical, according to the scientists. ‘Step by step, people pick up their – more or less normal – lives’, initiators Philippe Beutels and Pierre Van Damme (UAntwerp) say. ‘The fact that 50,000 people are still taking part is still great. The questionnaire thus continues to provide relevant information. Thank you for that!’ 

Health care workers get infected at work 

An initial analysis of the large amount of data – as is customary each week – yields some interesting findings: 

  • Of the 303 respondents in the last three questionnaires who think they know where they got their confirmed infection, 178 state that the workplace was the source. A large proportion of them (98/178) work in the health care sector. Given that the virus was able to spread in our residential care homes, this is perhaps not surprising, but it remains important to further reduce risk in these environments. Education (11), industry (9) and trade (9) are also indicated as possible work situations where people suspect to have contracted an infection, but these numbers are significantly lower.  

  • The Big Corona Study has been probing the mental well-being of Belgians for many weeks. On average, mental well-being declined systematically until the beginning of May. After the first week of May (and the first relaxations) things have started moving in the right direction, but Belgian are still in a worse state than in June 2018, when Sciensano organised the big Health Survey in tempore non suspecto.  

  • Something important to note: there is a small group of people who ​clearly indicate experiencing psychological problems. Their share rose from 1.5% at the beginning of the lockdown to 6% today. ‘It is important not to lose sight of them’, Thomas Neyens (UHasselt/KU Leuven) says.  


  • 38 respondents received a COVID-19 diagnosis in the past 8 days. Only 8 (21%) of them were contacted by a contact tracer up until Tuesday, and this happened between 3 to 12 days after the onset of their symptoms. 

  • The living situation of children has a clear impact on the activities they engage in. About 20% of children without a garden or patio can play sports, compared to about 35% of children who have at least a patio. For playing outside, the ratio is even more pronounced: about 70% of children with a garden and/or patio, compared to about 45% of children without. 

On Tuesday 2 June between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m., the twelfth wave of the Big Corona Study is scheduled to take place (available in four languages): www.corona-study.be

Every working day a new result from the Big Corona Study is highlighted at https://corona-studie.shinyapps.io/corona-studie/, a project by Jonas Crèvecoeur (KU Leuven).