Mental health in the UK has worsened “substantially” as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic – by as much as 8.1% on average, researchers say.
The surge has been “much more” profound for young adults and for women – groups that already had lower levels of mental health before the lockdown.
The study, carried out by the Institute For Financial Studies (IFS), shows that even larger average effects are observed for measures of mental health that capture the number problems reported or the fraction of the population reporting any frequent or severe problems, which more than doubled for some groups such as young women.
The IFS – one of the strongest set of academic researchers in the UK – said that it is important, though, that when looking at the findings, it should be remembered that there were pre-existing recent trends in mental health before the COVID-19 situation developed.
It is important, they said, when attempting to understand and isolate the specific effects of coronavirus on mental health.
Xiaowei Xu, a Senior Research Economist at IFS and an author of the paper, said the effects of COVID-19 and the associated lockdown on mental health have been “very big indeed”.
She said: “Young people and women, already at more risk of mental health problems, have experienced particularly big impacts on their mental health.
“These impacts need to be weighed alongside economic and other health effects of policies as we move out of lockdown. It will be important to monitor changes in mental health and to make sure that appropriate support is given to those who are struggling.”
The report – which includes analysis of the economic consequences of the COVID-19 situation – is available here.