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Understanding the psychological and social impact of the pandemic



March 2021 Newsletter 

 

It has been one year since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in the UK and in that time more than 72,000 participants have contributed over 910,000 questionnaires to the COVID-19 Social Study, helping us understand how the pandemic has affected people across the country. 

Watch the video below to learn about some of our main achievements—all made possible by our study participants, partners and supporters.



Take part in an interview
 

In addition to running our surveys, we have conducted 221 telephone or video call interviews that have helped us gain a detailed and nuanced understanding of the complex issues people face during the pandemic. Interviews are a vital part of our study in addition to our regular questionnaires.

We are particularly looking for more participants with specific experiences to tell us about how they've coped during the pandemic, including:
 

  • Women who have experienced abuse from a former or current partner since the start of the pandemic. This could be physical, emotional, financial or sexual abuse, or coercion, threats or intimidation.
  • Black African and Black Caribbean people who have had confirmed or suspected COVID-19 and who are experiencing longer term symptoms or “Long Covid."

 
If you identify with any of these groups or if you know anyone else who does and who would like further information about our telephone interviews, please visit our website or contact Alex Burton: a.burton@ucl.ac.uk

If you are interested in taking part
, the interview will last around 45 minutes and the information you provide will be anonymised and kept confidential.

We will offer you a £10 gift voucher to thank you for taking part.

We continue to receive wonderful feedback from participants 

We love hearing from you so please do keep telling us what you think about the study!

“Thank you for the work you do to help us through this… the questions have helped me stay on top of my mental health and get help when over the year I have needed some.” (Participant)



Key Findings this Month

Quality of sleep has deteriorated by 39% over the past year. In March 2020, 13% of people were getting ‘very good’ quality sleep, but a year later this has decreased to 8%. Similarly, the number of people reporting ‘very poor’ quality sleep has doubled from 5% in autumn 2020 to 10% early this year. Certain groups are more likely to report poor quality sleep than others including people with lower household incomes, those with a mental or physical health condition, and those from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Just over half (53%) of people in our study have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and vaccine hesitancy has improved since the autumn. 1 in 3 who said that they were ‘very unlikely’ (most hesitant) to get the vaccine have had at least one dose. A further 22% of people who reported being most hesitant to get the vaccine now say they are ‘very likely’ to get the vaccine. 

Worries about catching COVID-19 or becoming seriously ill from it have been decreasing steadily since the start of 2021 and are now lower than they have ever been, with fewer than 1 in 3 people (29%) reporting being worried. Although worries about obtaining sufficient food have decreased over the course of the latest lockdown, 1 in 10 people are still concerned. People with a physical health condition remain the most worried about being able to obtain food.

Depression and anxiety symptoms have been relatively stable over the past four months but are still higher than they were in the summer 2020. Depression and anxiety are still highest in young adults, women, people with lower household income, people from ethnic minority backgrounds, those with a physical or mental health condition, and people living with children.

Young people's experiences during the pandemic

"A normal day just looks like… It’s just like evenings to me… Because all I do, I just sit in my room, do nothing...” (Adolescent)

Many young people aged 13-24 told us they have struggled with boredom, loneliness and isolation which has affected their mental health. Most have been living with family or have moved home because of the pandemic. Some have experienced tensions at home, while others told us that spending more time with family and facing the pandemic together had a positive impact on their relationships. Many have missed their friends and worried about the impact of the pandemic on their education and social lives.


Research Updates


Behind the Scenes: Meet a Researcher

Liam Wright, a Research Fellow in Epidemiology and Statistics at UCL, defended his PhD thesis this week and will soon become Dr Wright. In the meantime, he is a valued member of the COVID-19 Social Study team, focusing on why people adhere to lockdown restrictions.

This month, he published a pre-print on public opinion about the UK government during COVID-19 and the implications for public health. He has also published a peer-reviewed paper in the Lancet Regional Health - Europe on the predictors of adherence to COVID-19 guidelines.

Our Other Publications

The pre-prints we've published this month can be found on our website or at the links below:

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

 
Further papers are in preparation, under review, or in press and will be added shortly. These include papers focusing on public attitudes to the UK government and public compliance with guidelines, the experiences of parents during the pandemic, longitudinal changes in physical activity and arts engagement, changes in the mental health of key workers, and whether being vaccinated changes individuals’ compliance with lockdown guidelines.


Impact


In the Media

Our directors, Dr Daisy Fancourt and Dr Andrew Steptoe, are regularly on air! Watch or listen to their interviews with BBC Radio 4, documentary-maker Ross Kemp, and the BBC World Service.

Will the vaccine rollout change how people socially distance, wear masks & adhere to lockdown rules? So far, our data in January and February suggest not, as described by Andrew Steptoe in conversation with BBC PM. Listen from about 24.5 minutes. 
Ross Kemp spoke to Daisy Fancourt about the COVID-19 crisis, how it has impacted different groups of people across the nation, and the profound effect it will have on people's mental health for years to come. Watch their conversation here.
This pandemic continues to cause sickness, death and curbs to everyday life so no surprise that many are suffering. Whose mental health is hardest hit and what can be done to help?
Andrew Steptoe joined other experts on a panel with Claudia Hammond for the BBC World Service Programme, The Evidence.


Impact


Policy

As well as presenting results and providing data to government and a number of policy and third sector bodies every month, in March we have undertaken analyses for the COVID-19 Cabinet Task Force, the Department for Transport, Public Health England and NHS England.

We welcome enquiries from policy and practice groups involved in pandemic support efforts.

 

Follow us on Twitter

We have launched a Twitter account! Follow @C19socialstudy to keep up-to-date with our latest research and activities.

 

COVID-Minds Network 

The COVID-19 Social Study is part of the international COVID-Minds Network, a community of researchers cataloguing longitudinal studies on mental health during the pandemic. Details of the studies and resources can be found on the network's website. Sign up for newsletters here.
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