Increasing aggression during the COVID-19 lockdowns

William D.S. Killgore, Sara A. Cloonan, Emily C. Taylor, Ian Anlap, Natalie S. Dailey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Background: To combat the spread of COVID-19, many communities implemented restrictions on personal movement, often referred to as “lockdowns.” We hypothesized that continued lockdowns might be associated with increased feelings of aggression. Methods: Over the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Buss-Perry Aggression Questionnaire (BPAQ) was administered to a total of 5,928 adults distributed proportionally from across the United States during independent online cross-sectional surveys collected each month. Data across the 6-month period were compared between those under lockdown versus those not under such restrictions. Results: BPAQ Total Aggression scores showed a significant main effect for both month and lockdown status as well as a significant interaction effect, with increasing scores evident for those reporting that they were under lockdown relative to those reporting no restrictions. This same pattern was evident for all four subscales of the BPAQ, including Physical Aggression, Verbal Aggression, Anger, and Hostility. Limitations: Random sampling of the entire population was not possible, so generalization of the results should be made with caution. Additionally, data were collected cross-sectionally and cannot be considered to reflect longitudinal change within individuals. Finally, the cross-sectional survey design means that it is impossible to infer that the lockdowns caused the increase in aggression. Conclusions: Lockdowns were associated with elevated levels of aggression that were higher in later months of the national pandemic response.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100163
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders Reports
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Aggression
  • Anger
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus
  • Hostility
  • Lockdowns

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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