Lockdowns at Covid “crippled memory just as much as being in prison,” according to a report.

A study suggests the Covid lockdown may have a similar impact on people's ability to remember events as those going to prison (stock image)

Covid locks down ‘paralyzed memory as much as spending time in prison’

According to one research, lockdowns during the epidemic may have had a comparable influence on people’s recollections as completing jail terms.

The survey asked 227 adults in the United Kingdom to name the year when key news events happened.

The volunteers recalled events from 2021 approximately as poorly as they remembered ones from four years earlier.

This is comparable to what occurs to people in jail, who lose their capacity to trace the passage of time, according to the experts.

Professor Arash Sahraie, senior author of the study from the University of Aberdeen, said: ‘In prison, research shows that people report that the days drag on and the years fly by, with prisoners losing track of time.

A study suggests the Covid lockdown may have a similar impact on people’s ability to remember events as those going to prison (stock image)

“This is similar to what we saw in people who were asked to recall events during lockdowns, probably because, like prisoners, they didn’t have life events like birthday parties and holidays to use as reference points to track how time passed.”

The study, published in the journal PLOS One, gave people four events for each of five years, between 2017 and 2021.

These include Meghan Markle joining the royal family, Brexit being finalized, the Covid vaccination program starting and Donald Trump being banned from Facebook.

For each event, the volunteers had to pick the year they thought happened, between 2016 and 2022.

The more recent the news report, the better they should have remembered it – so the volunteers, who were polled last May, should have done their best for 2021, which was only the previous year.

But they were more than a year ? 1.15 years on average ? behind the dates of events in 2021, such as the first tourist flight into space and the Evergreen container ship running aground in the Suez Canal.

The poor accuracy for 2021 was similar to people’s problems remembering events that happened much longer ago, in 2017 and 2018, for which their answers were wrong by 1.21 and 1.13 years, respectively.

People’s memories weren’t so bad for 2020, which researchers say is because the pandemic lockdowns didn’t start until late March, and because the shock of the situation gave people time to “landmark” how the months went by.

The study states: ‘Although drawing a comparison between the prison environment and pandemic-related restrictions can be seen as an extreme case, we argue that there are similarities in the degree of social isolation in both situations.’

People had worse memories if they struggled with more anxiety and depression during the lockdowns and agreed with statements in a questionnaire such as ‘during the pandemic I had nothing to look forward to’.

Professor Sahraie said: ‘People remember events happened during the pandemic – they just don’t remember when.’

Covid lockdowns ‘crippled memory just as much as spending time in prison’