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Women and young people most affected by lockdown’s ‘major impact’ on mental health



The UK lockdown had a ‘major’ impact on the mental health of women, young people and people from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, a study has found.

The research, conducted by the University of Glasgow and mental health charities, and published yesterday in the British Journal of Psychiatry, surveyed 3,077 adults in the most detailed examination to date of British mental health during the lockdown period between 31 March and 11 May.

It described the ‘major’ impact of lockdown on the mental health of the UK population. Young people (aged 18 to 29), women, those from socially advantaged backgrounds and those with pre-existing mental health problems were particularly affected, it found. 

Lead researcher Professor Rory O’Connor warned the ‘effects of Covid-19 on the population’s mental health and well-being are likely to be profound and long-lasting’, adding that tracking of the issue should continue in order to ‘formulate targeted measures and interventions for those most in need’.

The study found suicidal thoughts increased from 8% to 10% overall, but jumped from 12.5% to 14.4% in young adults. Those from a lower socioeconomic background and those with a pre-existing mental health conditions were also more likely to report experiencing them.

Overall, one in four (26.1%) participants experienced at least moderate levels of depressive symptoms at one or more points during the study – although fewer men were affected (17.6%) than women (33%).

However, although a fifth (21%) of the overall sample showed at least moderate anxiety symptoms at the start of lockdown, these symptoms decreased across the first six weeks.

Researchers assessed mental health factors including pre-existing mental health problems, suicide attempts and self-harm, suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety, feelings of defeat, feelings of entrapment, mental well-being, and loneliness.

Dr Liz Scowcroft, head of research and evaluation at Samaritans, which collaborated on the study, said: ‘Suicide is preventable and these results demonstrate that it’s more important than ever that effective support is available for those who need it most.

‘As we continue to navigate our way through the pandemic, it is a priority for us to reach those struggling to cope and encourage them to seek help before they reach crisis point,’ she added.

Earlier this month, a mental health charity warned that 20% of the adult population and 15% of all children will suffer from mental health issues as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Also in October, a study found that binge drinking and frequent alcohol drinking increased more among women than men during the coronavirus lockdown.