COVID-19 and Mental Wellbeing

With one in five concerned about isolation and the same proportion worried about mental illness, what will the impact of coronavirus be on our mental wellbeing?

The author(s)

  • Rachel Worsley Public Affairs
  • Rachel Williams Public Affairs
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Ipsos were commissioned by the Academy of Medical Sciences (AMS) and mental health research charity, MQ: Transforming mental health (MQ) to carry out a survey among the public across Great Britain to explore:

  • What concerns people have about the impact of the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on their mental wellbeing, and;
  • What people have been doing to support their mental wellbeing over this time.

Questions were asked on our online Omnibus and 1,099 adults aged between 16 and 75 took part. The survey was carried out in the week following the announcement of lockdown across the UK, with fieldwork taking place between Thursday 26 March and Monday 30 March 2020. Quotas were set and data were weighted to the offline population to ensure a nationally representative sample by gender, age and region.

Questions were asked as open-text questions, from which a code frame was developed, and responses were coded and quantified.

The findings were used by the AMS and MQ to develop a paper by 24 leading experts on mental health, including neuroscientists, psychiatrists, psychologists, public health and those with experience of a mental health conditions which was published in Lancet Psychiatry on Wednesday 15 April. You can read the full paper or a summary version.

Overall, the paper warns that the COVID-19 pandemic could have a ‘profound’ and ‘pervasive impact’ on global mental health now and in the future and calls for research on mental health and brain science to be central to the global response to the pandemic.

An additional report summarising the findings across the Ipsos general public survey and a survey of those with lived experience of mental health carried out by MQ can be found on the Academy of Medical Sciences website.

Key findings from the Ipsos survey:

  • One in five (21%) are concerned about isolation, including not being able to go out in general (18%) and being in isolation for a long time (2%). Related to this, 13% are worried about social distancing, including the lack of social contact (5%) and loneliness (4%).
  • One in five (20%) are also worried about mental illnesses, including 11% who are concerned about anxiety and 7% who have concerns about depression.
  • Other concerns include, having negative feelings (13%), worries about practical aspects of life – for example, finances and employment (10%), and concerns about the COVID-19 virus (7%).
  • There are differences among men and women across many of the worries identified, with women being more likely than men to have concerns about isolation, social distancing and mental health and illness. For example, 28% of women are concerned about mental illness during the current pandemic, compared with 13% of men.
  • A quarter (24%) say they have been using various types of entertainment to help their mental wellbeing during the pandemic, including reading (8%), DIY and crafts (4%) and listening to music (3%).
  • Keeping in contact with family and friends is also helping 22% of people and using specific communication channels (for example social media and video calls) is cited by 19%.
  • Physical activity is helping 18% of people with their mental wellbeing over this time, while 15% cite aspects of work, such as working from home.
  • Other activities helping people with their mental wellbeing include doing household chores (12%), appreciating nature or getting outside (10%), and relaxation techniques (9%).

The full data tables can be found at the link below.

The author(s)

  • Rachel Worsley Public Affairs
  • Rachel Williams Public Affairs

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