Nation’s mental health declined during lockdown, survey shows

Impact hardest on women, parents and young people
Nation’s mental health declined during lockdown, survey shows

Mental health declined substantially after the first month of COVID-19 lockdown, a new survey shows.

The survey* of UK households published today in The Lancet Psychiatry journal, reveals a decline in population mental health from before the COVID-19 pandemic into the lockdown period in April 2020.

Among the 17,452 people who responded to the survey, the average level of mental distress increased in April 2020, compared to average scores before the pandemic (1.1 point increase in average mental distress score, from 11.5/36 points to 12.6/36 points). This increase in mental distress was 0.5 points higher than would be expected based on upward trends that have been observed over the past five years.

During late April 2020, more than one quarter of study participants reported a level of mental distress that is potentially clinically significant (27.3%), compared with one in five people before the pandemic (18.9%). However, the researchers stress their study is based on survey responses rather than clinical assessment and this does not mean that one in four people has a clinical mental illness.

The study reveals that some mental health inequalities that were present before the pandemic have widened. The increase in mental distress was greater among women than men (women: average adjusted increase of 0.92/36, men: 0.06/36), and in younger age groups than older people (16-24-year-olds average adjusted increase: 2.69 points, 70 and over average increase: 0.17 points).

*Pierce M, Hope H, Ford T, et al. Mental health before and during the COVID-19 pandemic: a longitudinal probability sample survey of the UK population. The Lancet Psychiatry. Published Online. July 21, 2020. DOI: 10.1016/S2215-0366(20)30308-4

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