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Understanding the psychological and social impact of the pandemic

COVID Social Study - November 2020


Welcome to the fifth COVID Social Study Newsletter. Over 72,000 participants have now contributed over 760,000 questionnaires over the last 32 weeks. Through this, we continue to gather critical information on the psychological and social impact of the pandemic in the UK. 

We have also conducted over 190 telephone or video call interviews but we are still looking for more participants from specific groups to tell us about their experiences during the pandemic (in return for a £10 gift voucher).

  • Young people aged 13-21 from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups
  • Parents aged 18-28 years old who have young children
  • Key workers from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups (public transport workers, postal workers, delivery drivers, police officers, funeral service workers)

If you identify with any of these groups, or if you know anyone else who does and who would like further information about the telephone interview study, please contact Alex Burton 

We continue to receive wonderful feedback from participants, as well as people who are using our data reports in their work. We love hearing from you so do keep telling us your experiences from the study!

“Thank you for the work you are doing to promote and nourish mental health. In these uncertain times it is a great challenge to prevent mental illness, and support those living with mental health conditions”.
Covid Social Study Participant

“Your work has been really helpful and I have used your data updates in a number of presentations internally and externally to my trust – thank you! I refer to it as one of the best surveys because you set up before lockdown, have a large sample and are longitudinal.” 
NHS Trust Research and Development Director 


You are receiving this email as a member of the MARCH Network, or because you have requested updates on the Covid-19 Social Study. If you would prefer not to receive future newsletters, please unsubscribe using the link at the bottom of this email.

Key Findings 

Some insights into this month's findings…

Confidence in the ability of the health service to cope with demand during Covid-19 was low when lockdown started, with 20% of people on balance not thinking the health service would be able to cope, 60% thinking it would cope, and the remainder of participants being unsure. This improved as lockdown continued, but has been decreasing as cases have increased. Younger adults are most concerned.

“Healthcare is my main priority, that really worries me, that I’m not going to get the same level of treatment as I was getting before, because there won’t be sufficient money around, and a lot of services will be cut” (Female, aged 59, interviewed in June)

Compliance with the guidelines decreased as lockdown was eased, both in terms of “complete compliance” (completely following the rules) and “majority compliance” (largely following the rules). Adults have been generally showing a broad compliance with the rules, but many have been bending the rules or making their own adaptations. People from more privileged backgrounds have been most likely to bend the rules. However, people have been becoming stricter as cases have been rising. 

“I suppose it was definitely a lot stricter than it is now and obviously I think throughout, there was definitely a slight relaxation in my approach to the guidelines. But I was still meeting people throughout the whole thing, people outside of my house, but I would say throughout lockdown there has definitely been relaxation in my approach” (Female, aged 24, interviewed in August)

Stress about catching Covid-19 has begun to increase as cases have increased. Currently, around 45% of people are worried either about catching Covid-19 or becoming seriously ill from it. This stress has increased in all age groups.

“There is an edge to it, and there is a bit of a sense of dread isn’t there. And obviously there’s the fear of getting it yourself when we look at things like… I think we’re learning more that the long term impact can be worse for more people than we thought originally” (Male, aged 47, interviewed in July).

Life satisfaction, which was increasing across the summer after sharp decreases just before lockdown came in, has been decreasing in the past few weeks. Decreases have been found across people living in both urban and rural areas in the UK as more restrictions have been brought in.

“We’re very lucky. We’ve got a garden and across the road we’ve got a paddock, which initially, when we weren’t going into the streets or anywhere, we just crossed the road, went around this paddock, and I’ve worked out with my Fitbit that ten rounds of that was 5000 steps. We’ve got it worked out” (Female, aged 80, interviewed in August)

In England, only half of adults (51%) now report that they feel they understand the rules. This is a slight improvement on understanding of the rules in July, but only 13% feel they fully understand the rules. In Wales, comprehension of the rules has stayed constant; with around 3 in 5 people saying they understand them and 15% feeling they understand them completely. In Scotland, understanding of the rules is highest but it has decreased since the summer, with just 2 in 3 feeling they understand them (down from 75%) and only 18% feeling they fully understand them.

I’ll try to look at the rules and have no idea what I’m supposed to do, what I’m not supposed to do…. it was just like…incredible confusion once it got past the stay at home to protect the NHS stage (Male, aged 22, interviewed in August).

To see more results and further detail of the findings and methods, visit our website and download our weekly reports.  

Research Updates 

In the last month we have published new pre-prints on the Covid-19 Social Study data including:

  • Drinking behaviours during lockdown
  • Predictors of compliance
  • Anti-vaccine attitudes 

Some of our existing pre-prints have also been accepted & published in peer-reviewed journals, including:

These and other publications can be viewed here.  Further papers are in preparation, under review, or in press and will be added shortly. These include papers focusing on the qualitative experiences of people with mental health conditions, older adults, people with long-term health conditions and health and social care workers during the pandemic, use of mental health services, weight and diet during lockdown, social isolation and mental health, and arts engagement during the pandemic, amongst others.


As well as presenting results and providing data to government and a number of policy and third sector bodies every week, in the last month we have also given evidence to the UK Science Minister Amanda Solloway on inequalities during the pandemic, presented in the Gates Foundation Grand Challenges programme on mental health in COVID-19, spoken on a parliamentary panel convened by UK Research and Innovation on research infrastructure, given evidence to the London Assembly Health Committee on vaccine attitudes, and spoken to newspapers on ethnic inequalities during the pandemic.

Please contact us if you would like us to connect with another group to support efforts relating to the pandemic. 

The Covid-19 Social Study continues to feature in national and international press & media - some examples are below.

Covid rules 'not understood by nearly 90 per cent of public' See article


Public confidence in government slumped since lockdown enforced, research shows
See article

Coronavirus in Scotland: Public is losing faith over SNP's handling of crisis 
See article

COVID Minds Network 

The Covid-19 Social Study is part of the international COVID-MINDS Network, which is cataloguing longitudinal studies on mental health during Covid-19 internationally. You can see details of studies on the website, as well as links to empirical papers and resources and sign up for network newsletters.
Copyright © 2020 UCL COVID-19 Social Study
All rights reserved

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UCL Department of Behavioural Science and Health
University College London
1-19 Torrington Place
London WC1E 7HB

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