UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry

Publication Date


Document Type



Health Psychology | Infectious Disease | International Public Health | Psychiatry and Psychology | Virus Diseases


The COVID-19 pandemic has imposed on people the need to find meaning in many unprecedented ways. The aim of this qualitative study was to explore how the general Italian population dealt with government restrictions and to understand personal experiences connected with the first wave of the pandemic in light of the personal construct theory (PCT) framework. One hundred and sixteen people (over 18 years old) completed an online survey between May and June 2020. Two independent researchers ran inductive thematic content analysis on data using a specifically developed international codebook. Five major themes were identified in the participants' narrations: difficulties, emotions, coping with lockdown measures, going back to normal, and change. The results, interpreted within the PCT transitions, showed that the pandemic represented a threat to participants' life plans, beliefs, and certainties. Some coped with it mainly by waiting for the pandemic to end and remaining firm in their beliefs and certainties, whereas others coped by trying to find alternative ways of giving sense to this experience and reconstructing personal meanings, claiming a change in their life and in society. Differentiating personal experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic is fundamental for designing personalised strategies to promote well-being.


COVID-19, coronavirus, health psychology, personal construct theory, qualitative research

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Copyright © 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (

DOI of Published Version



Tomaino SCM, Cipolletta S, Kostova Z, Todorova I. Stories of Life during the First Wave of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Italy: A Qualitative Study. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Jul 18;18(14):7630. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18147630. PMID: 34300081; PMCID: PMC8304996. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

International journal of environmental research and public health

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PubMed ID


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.