Apr 1, 2020 | by Dr Daisy Fancourt

New research on emotional wellbeing impacts of COVID-19

What might be the psychological and social effects of Covid-19 in the UK? How can we best support people during this crisis?

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to many communities and organisations developing ways to support each other, especially those most vulnerable. Evidence shows that having someone to rely on in times of trouble is the top driver of a high-wellbeing nation. Helping others and having purpose supports personal wellbeing. So this is a good sign.

Yet, there is already evidence showing that 5% of the UK population feel chronically lonely, and the overlap between loneliness and those at risk of low wellbeing. With physical distancing, being on lockdown, and relying increasingly on technology to connect, there is a risk that loneliness will increase along with social isolation.

In order to help tackle this issue, the Behavioural Science and Health academic research team at University College London are recruiting as many people, across as diverse a spectrum as possible, to take part in our study into how loneliness, social isolation and physical distancing are affecting our mental health. 45,000 people have already signed up, but more are needed. 

Early findings

The results from the first week of the survey are now available online, and some of the key findings include:

  • Individuals with mental health conditions are showing marked less confidence in government. 
  • Confidence in accessing essentials (such as food, medicines and electricity) is mixed.  
  • People with physical and (in particular) mental health conditions are particularly worried about not being able to access essentials.  
  • Key workers, younger adults, those living in overcrowded households, and individuals with health conditions (especially mental health conditions) are reporting more daily stressors.  
  • Concern for family and friends and getting food are ranking as the most prevalent stressors (reported by over half of our sample); more prevalent than catching or becoming seriously ill from Covid-19.  
  • Types of stressors are varying substantially by age and existing mental and physical health conditions, and key workers are substantially more worried about work than non-key workers. 
  • Amongst major stressors, women and younger adults are reporting more major stressors, as are key workers, people living in overcrowded houses, people of lower income, and people with physical and (in particular) mental health conditions.

How you can help

The results from our study are vital if we are to understand the wellbeing effects of this virus on individuals. They will help us to:

  • track trajectories of mental health and loneliness in the UK over the coming weeks
  • identify which groups are most at risk
  • understand the effects of any potentially protective activities people could be engaging in. 
  • inform the advice that people are given about how to stay well at home
  • develop ways to support people psychologically and socially during this outbreak

Our study will also identify how the news about coronavirus is affecting people, whether people are having to isolate, and their experiences of isolating.

Get a weekly data release

We will be providing public data releases each week – which you can sign up to receive here. We are liaising with key policy and healthcare bodies within the UK, and with teams in other countries to produce cross-national comparisons.

The study is open to all adults in the UK and involves answering a 15-minute online survey now and then answering a shorter 10-minute follow-up survey once a week whilst social isolation measures are in place.

To take part, visit https://www.marchnetwork.org/research  or https://redcap.idhs.ucl.ac.uk/surveys/?s=TTXKND8JMK

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