Research reveals increase in psychological distress in people during first wave of COVID-19
The first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic has seen more people suffer from mental health problems in the UK – according to new research from the University of East Anglia and the University of York.
Image Credit: University of East Anglia
New research released today reveals that the number of people suffering from some form of psychological distress increased by almost 50% during the peak of the first wave of the pandemic in April 2020, compared to 2019 figures.
The prevalence of psychological distress increased from 19% in 2019 to 28% in April 2020.
The study also shows that the distribution of mental health problems across the population became more uneven during the first wave of the COVID-19 epidemic.
But the study, which tracks people’s experiences over time, shows that levels of psychological distress had returned to pre-pandemic levels by the end of the first wave in July 2020.
We wanted to see how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected people’s mental health, find out if the impact has been greater on the most disadvantaged, and see how the health of metals has changed as the first wave of the pandemic was progressing.
Dr Apostolos Davillas, Norwich School of Medicine, UEA
Researchers studied data from the UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS), which launched a Covid-19 survey to examine the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
They looked at levels of socio-economic inequality and psychological distress in 2019, before the outbreak of the pandemic and during the first wave of the Covid-19 epidemic between April and July 2020. The study included 8,222 participants .
They looked at twelve indicators, including the inability to concentrate, make decisions or enjoy daily activities, experience sleep problems, and feelings of depression and worthlessness.
Dr Davillas said: “What we have found is that the mental health of many people suffered during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
“In particular, we found that people’s ability to enjoy daily activities and play a meaningful role was most affected, along with problems with concentration and being unhappy.
“We already knew that Covid-19 had caused more than 20,000 deaths in the UK at the height of the first wave, so there was already a clear impact on well-being.”
“Many people have faced financial hardship, the stress of having children at home, isolation, and all of this has had an impact on the mental health of the nation.”
“We found that total inequality in mental health increased during the first wave of the Covid-19 epidemic in the UK.
“Compared to 2019, the dispersion of mental health issues across the population became about 20% more uneven at the peak of the first wave in the UK in April 2020. It appears that the burden of this psychological distress was unevenly distributed among the population. during the first wave of the Covid-19 epidemic. “
“But our study also found surprising results. Although total mental health inequality increased during the pandemic compared to 2019, pre-existing individual socio-economic circumstances – such as housing conditions, employment, income, education and occupation of parents – did not play a more important role in explaining the inequalities observed.
“Additionally, much of the change in the pattern of psychological distress had dissipated by the end of the first wave in July 2020.”
“Looking more closely at the role of individual characteristics, we found that at the height of the pandemic, age and gender accounted for a larger share of socioeconomic inequality in mental health compared to 2019 and the the most notable increase is evident for younger women. .
“The share of total socio-economic inequality attributed to work in an industry linked to the Covid-19 response – such as work in the health sector, the food industry, retail, transportation or education – increased more than three times compared to 2019.
“We also found that as the first wave of Covid-19 progressed, chronic health problems, housing conditions and neighborhood characteristics increased their contribution to socio-economic inequality in terms of Mental Health.”
“The first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on socio-economic inequalities in psychological distress in the UK” is published in Health Economics. The article is co-authored by Dr Apostolos Davillas (UEA) and Professor Andrew M. Jones (University of York).