The Guardian recently published an insightful roundup of some of COVID-19’s key effects on mental health in Britain since its outbreak. Covering a range of psychological effects, it provides a snapshot of how we have been coping with the dramatic changes unfolding around us.
Based on figures compiled by the Office For National Statistics and on independent research conducted by mental health charities, the article breaks down the pandemic’s impact into various categories – loneliness, anxiety, grief, relationships and mental health. Accompanying the analysis of each of these are a series of superb charts which help to visualise the effects of COVID-19.
Anxiety Has Been Peaking And Troughing
No doubt the least surprising numbers are those relating to anxiety. The widespread impact of COVID-19 and the measures implemented to try to contain the spread of the virus were always highly likely to increase worry amongst the nation. At one point, in late March, a 50% proportion of Britons reported feeling high levels of anxiety. While this gradually decreased down to below 30% by the start of July, recenty it has trended up to 35% again. The article suggests an increase in social anxiety, as we try to adjust to returning to work and other social situations, as a possible cause for this secondary spike.
Being Confined To Close Quarters Impacted Relationships
The imposed and prolonged confinement to home, for many without any of the usual reasons to go out each day, had the potential to affect couples in many ways. The statistics show that, at the mid point of the lockdown, almost a quarter of Britons with a partner felt that the circumstances were placing pressure on their relationship. This was ineviatable in many circumstances but there is a more positive story to be told too if the extra relationship pressure was managed and worked through. In a Metro article on the subject, Dr Briony Leo, Head Coach at relationship coaching app Relish, points out that where relationships made it through lockdown they will be stronger ‘across the board because people have had a baptism of fire and, through being locked down together, might have found strategies to sort through their issues and have come out the other side with a better understanding of each other (this also happens a lot during crisies – they can make or break a relationship)’.
Loneliness In An Unexpected Age Group
Many assumed older people would be most affected by loneliness but at the height of the crisis young people were more likely to report being lonely.
31% of people in the Office Of National Statistics survey (the equivalent of 7.4 million people across Great Britain) said their wellbeing had been affected through feeling lonely in the previous seven days. Perhaps, the more surprising aspect of the data was that it was in the 16 -24 year old age bracket where people were most affected. Over 50% of the age group said they were experiencing loneliness when surveyed during lockdown. Kayleigh Wainwright, of the national charity UK Youth thinks that young people are at particular risk of loneliness during the pandemic because of the ongoing uncertainty it has introduced at a transitional stage in their lives.
Ongoing Mental Health Concerns
Across the UK, 65,000 people died over and above those in a typical year between mid-March, when the first COVID-19 deaths were registered in the UK, and early July. This alone is a huge collective burden for the thousands of people who have been affected by bereavement as a result of these losses. As the Guardian article points out, this was exacerbated by lockdown restrictions denying people the chance to support and comfort their loved ones during their final days in hospital or even to receive face-to-face support from their friends and families if they lost somebody.
This is just one example of the many trauma inducing scenarios the pandemic has brought with it. Those who lived through serious cases of COVID-19, those who experienced domestic violence at home, those key workers who had to continue in the face of the threat of the virus are all other stories which carry the risk of bringing PTSD with them too.
Both mental health charities, Mind and Rethink point to the risk of a potential mental health crisis as the demand for support grows at a time when government mental health budgets have been in steady decline. In a mind poll, the results showed that a quarter of the respondents trying to access NHS support had been unable to do so. Despite these challenges, the positive side to the story are the many volunteer organisations and charities which work tirelessly to help try to provide frontline support and advice to those suffering from mental health issues.
Mental Health Resources
The Guardian article has a useful list of some of these resources and we have also included some of them here:
If you found this article useful, you might want to take a look at our article on, ‘Coping With Fear And Anxiety Coming Out Of COVID-19 Lockdown’.