Mental health plummets amid COVID crisis

By Heather Jameson | 10 June 2020

Mental health has plummeted during the coronavirus crisis, research by the Institute of Fiscal Studies has revealed.

Pre-existing inequalities have been exacerbated as women and young people – who already suffer from relatively low levels of mental health – have been harder hit by lockdown.  

The study of 12,000, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and carried out by the University of Essex, found almost a quarter of respondents reported at least one mental health problem – up 10% from pre-crisis data.

According to the IFS, the scale of the deterioration of mental health is ‘unlike anything we have seen in recent years’. The impact on overall mental health scores was nearly double the deterioration seen between 2014-15 and 2017-18.

Those experiencing at least one mental health problem ‘much more than usual’ has more than doubled from one in ten to almost one in four. Younger women have the highest rates of poor mental health.

Key workers had less of a deterioration in mental health, while those who were laid off, had young children or had COVID-19 symptoms on the day of interview were worse hit.

Author of the report, Xiaowei Xu, said: ‘The effects of COVID-19 and the associated lockdown on mental health have been very big indeed. 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.’

Responding to the report chairman of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, Cllr Ian Hudspeth, said councils had been working with health and voluntary sector partners on maintaining the wellbeing of residents.

‘As we move into the next phase, councils’ unique insight and understanding of their communities means they are best placed to lead local efforts to address the impact of the pandemic on their residents’ mental health and wellbeing, and to provide reassurance, including for those who are vulnerable and may still be shielded or self-isolating,’ he said.

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