Depression cases doubled during COVID-19 pandemic

UK cases rose from 9.7% to 19.2% during pandemic.

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By Adrian O'Dowd.

The number of people who experienced depression appears to have doubled from around 10% before the COVID-19 pandemic to 20% during the height of the virus, according to data released today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS surveyed a representative sample of 3,527 adults about their mental health between July 2019 and March 2020, and then again during June 2020, to understand the impact that the coronavirus (COVID-19) was having on depression.

Adults taking part in the survey were asked a series of questions to produce a score of depressive symptoms, using the eight-item Patient Health Questionnaire depression screener, which provides a self-reported measure of depression that indicates the degree of an individual's depressive symptoms over the previous two weeks.

Results showed that the proportion of adults in Great Britain likely to be experiencing depressive symptoms doubled from 9.7% before the coronavirus pandemic, to 19.2% during the pandemic.

One in eight adults (12.9%) developed moderate to severe depressive symptoms during the pandemic, while a further 6.2% of the population continued to experience this level of depressive symptoms, and 3.5% saw an improvement over this period.

Adults who were aged 16 to 39-years-old, female, unable to afford an unexpected expense, or disabled were the most likely to experience some form of depression during the pandemic.

Feeling stressed or anxious was the most common way adults experiencing some form of depression felt their wellbeing was being affected with 84.9% saying so.

Further analysis showed that 42.2% of adults experiencing some form of depression during the pandemic said their relationships were being affected, compared with 20.7% of adults with no or mild depressive symptoms.

More than a third (35.1%) of adults with moderate to severe depressive symptoms said that access to healthcare and treatment for non-coronavirus-related issues was being affected, compared with 21.5% of adults with no or mild depressive symptoms.

Tim Vizard, principal research officer at the ONS, said: “Today’s research provides an insight into the mental health of adults during the coronavirus pandemic. Revisiting this same group of adults before and during the pandemic provides a unique insight into how their symptoms of depression have changed over time.

“Almost one in five adults were experiencing some form of depression during the pandemic, almost doubling from around one in 10 before the pandemic.”

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