Although COVID-19 and coronavirus are conditions that only affect the physical body, many of the steps we must take to stay safe have started to take their toll on our mental wellbeing as well as our physical fitness. If you are going through a depressive episode while quarantined at home with your family members, it’s not uncommon for loved ones to gradually run out of sympathy, which will only make your mental wellbeing that much worse.
Making an effort to see this weird year as just another period in your life – one with highs and lows and, most importantly, one which will come to an end – may help you manage, but those with ongoing mental health issues may need more help than this. It’s worth keeping an eye out for any potential symptoms of depression or mental illness, as they can vary widely from person to person. Many of our regular social activities aren’t available to us right now and we’re all spending a lot of time at home, a problem which is likely to continue as the country faces a second round of lockdowns.
As a result, those who are struggling with their mental health are less likely to talk about their issues or seek help. It’s important to understand who is at risk, and why. The experience we have of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) lockdown and pandemic will be very different for different groups of people in the UK. Some groups are being impacted much more severely than others, with one area of concern being the impact of the pandemic on mental health.
Many of us are starting to feel as though the virus will never go away and will be a permanent feature of our lives, and this will continue to be the case as long as the rising death toll of COVID-19 continues to be the main topic of any news broadcast. With both factors supporting positive economic and social outcomes for society and individuals alike, good mental and physical health are assets that are firmly linked.
In the UK, mental health disorders account for almost 25% of the total burden of ill health. Housing, income, low-quality work, unemployment and other social and economic circumstances are strongly associated with an individual’s mental health. Evidence from previous viral outbreaks also shows that there’s a well-documented burden of mental health disorders following disasters.
Through increased exposure to stressors, it appears as though COVID-19 and the measures taken in response to the pandemic could have a significant impact on the nation’s mental health. Reduced access to mental health treatment will only serve to exacerbate this, with many losing vital coping mechanisms.
Especially in those with underlying mental illnesses, a person’s mental health can really suffer during the scare of an infectious disease outbreak like the current COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis.
How Is the Pandemic Affecting Our Mental Health?
Studies have shown that the effect COVID-19 is having on daily life is causing more than two-thirds of adults in the UK (69%) to feel somewhat or very worried. Boredom (49%) is one of the most common issues affecting wellbeing, along with worry about the future (63%) and feeling stressed or anxious (56%).
In men under 45, suicide is the single biggest cause of death. But with the highest suicide rate in the UK existing in men aged 45-49, it’s not just young men who are at risk. Every day, an average of 12 men in the British Isles take their own lives. Suicide in men in the UK is three times more common than in women. Men might be more vulnerable to suicide for a number of reasons.
While they are not themselves considered mental health problems, suicide and self-harm are both linked with mental distress.
Some groups have been experiencing severe mental ill health as a result of the pandemic, while at least some degree of worry is widespread. The pandemic has resulted in substantial worsening of mental health – according to IFS analysis – by an average of 8.1%. The groups hit hardest include young adults and women – groups which had worse mental health even before the pandemic.
In the US, mental health is declining in young people and minority groups such as Black and Latino individuals of all ages, with some resorting to substance abuse as a coping mechanism.
As lockdown levels began to lift in early June, the UCL COVID-19 social study of 90,000 UK adults, which has monitored mental health symptoms throughout lockdown, found that levels of depression and anxiety were falling. However, people living in urban areas, young people, those with lower household income, those with a diagnosed mental illness and those with children continued to experience heightened levels of mental distress.
Many have argued that these results indicate an urgent need for telehealth counseling and other expanded, culturally-sensitive services for mental health and substance abuse. If you are someone who is prone to mental health issues like depression and anxiety, it’s important that you are able to access the support you need.
The emerging evidence regarding mental health during the coronavirus pandemic not only highlights that more support must be made available to those struggling with their mental health, but also that mental health is a field riddled with pre-existing inequalities. The reasons behind these inequalities are highlighted as research is carried out on the drivers of poor mental health in the pandemic.
The prevalence of depression symptoms is currently four times as high as it was in the second quarter of 2019, according to an online survey completed by some 5,400 people in late June, while anxiety symptoms are currently three times more common than usual.
Read All About It
Centre for Mental Health: Children of the new century – Mental health findings from the Millennium Cohort Study
- International Journal of Epidemiology: Re-employment, job quality, health and allostatic load biomarkers – prospective evidence from the UK Household Longitudinal Study.
- Suicides in the UK: 2018 registrations
- The Health Foundation: Health Equity in England – The Marmot Review 10 Years On.
- Annual Review of Public Health: Mental Health Consequences of Disasters.
- Nuffield Foundation: COVID-19 social study.
- Office for National Statistics: Coronavirus and the social impacts on Great Britain – 5 June 2020.
- Institute for Fiscal Studies: The mental health effects of the first two months of lockdown and social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK.
- UCL: Understanding the psychological and social impact of the pandemic. (Results release).