Every person across the UK had their own unique experience of lockdown, with everyone handling their emotions and the restrictions differently. One issue that has been brought to light is the impact that being in the midst of a pandemic has had on people’s mental health.
Even without a pandemic, one in four people will experience a mental health condition of some kind each year in the UK. Poor mental health can also be linked to social and economic issues, with people in poverty, or those who are unemployed with lower quality of life, most likely to be affected by consistent mental health conditions.
There is also a very strong link between mental health issues following disasters, including after previous virus outbreaks. The COVID-19 crisis is no exception. Evidence shows that we could be coming out of the coronavirus pandemic with a plethora of mental health conditions that could plague society many years to come.
How has the pandemic affected people’s mental health?
According to a survey by the Office for National Statistics, a perhaps unsurprising 69% of UK adults reported feeling somewhat or very worried about COVID-19 and how it is impacting their life. The restrictions that have were designed to protect physical health have had a profound impact on the mental health conditions of many people across the UK.
Mental health charity Mind, also conducted a survey over lockdown which revealed that just 12% of adults claimed to have improved mental health over lockdown, with 88% reporting the same or decreased mental health in the same period of time. This shows that, whilst a minority of people found time at home beneficial for their wellbeing, most people struggled on some level to deal with what was going on around them.
What is causing the mental health issues?
There are generally higher levels of stress, as well as increased levels of bereavement in difficult circumstances. Post-lockdown, there’s also a recognised increased risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). People who have been alone in intensive care for lengthy periods of time, as well as front-line health workers that had to face the initial onslaught of cases, and many other people are also feeling the impact of COVID-19.
Mind reported that 79% of adults struggled with not being able to see people, 74% were affected by not being able to go outside and a further 74% worried about friends and family getting COVID-19.
Loneliness and boredom were also huge factors amongst young people becoming down or depressed. Being alone at home for so many weeks and finding it impossible to stick to a normal routine without somebody there to motivate them were both seen as being a problem.
Working from home can also mean people feel more isolated – without the need to get up, get ready and out of the house many have struggled with the lack of routine.
What happens in the future?
As lockdown began to ease back in June and July, in the most part, anxieties did drop about leaving the house for essential shopping and other needs. Yet coming out of lockdown hasn’t simply ‘fixed’ the problems and some people will experience the mental impact of COVID-19 for years to come. The effect of COVID-19 on children is something that may only become apparent after a number of years.
The world is focused on a vaccine to help the economy and society get back on track. However, mental health is an area that may need significant investment in the future to ensure people can access the health they need and stop us from descending into a mental health crisis.