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Understanding the psychological and social impact of the pandemic

COVID Social Study - Newsletter 6


Welcome to the sixth COVID Social Study Newsletter. Over 70,000 participants have now contributed over 800,000 questionnaires over the last 36 weeks. Through this, we continue to gather critical information on the psychological and social impact of the pandemic in the UK.

Below, we highlight some of the headline findings, provide links to media coverage, and discuss the work we are doing with policy makers and organisations across the UK.

We have also conducted over 200 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
  • Key workers from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups (public transport workers, supermarket workers, postal workers, delivery drivers, police officers, funeral service workers).
  • We are particularly missing the views of postal workers and delivery drivers

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. We love hearing from you so please do keep telling us your experiences from the study!

“I just wanted to say thank you ...... these surveys really help me review how I feel from one week to the next, and although I'm in the more stressed than average group, it does help me to think I could be worse and reminds me to keep focussing on doing positive things.”
COVID Social Study Participant


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…

There are widening financial inequalities within society as a result of the pandemic. Amongst people finding things financially very difficult before the pandemic, 70% are now reporting that things are even worse for them. This is a deterioration in experiences since July when only 57% of the same group said things were even worse for them. 

“They gave us no extras, so we actually took a massive dip…. I worked it out, I was out of pocket by just under £2000”. (Male, aged 40-44, interviewed in September)

In the week commencing 9th November, 41% reported maintaining social distancing completely, with a further 49% reporting that they were maintaining it to a large extent. However, 8% reported not always maintaining social distancing, and 2% reported not following it at all. This is an improvement on the summer, when 3% reported not following it at all, over twice as many people (18%) reported not always following it, and nearly 50% fewer people reported following social distancing completely (28%).

When I’ve been doing my shopping…..I’ve done my best to stick to it, where possible. But, where I’ve been working, it’s been really difficult to keep the six-foot rule, with having close contact with my colleagues”.  (Female, aged 20-24, Interviewed in October)

Compliance has improved slightly in the past few weeks as cases of the virus have increased and stricter restrictions have been brought in. Levels of “complete” compliance are now around 47% (21% higher than they were at the end of August) and “majority” compliance is at 94% (5% higher than the end of August).

“I’ve probably broken a few rules because I have been here (University) and then gone home and then I have come back. It’s probably not the best but yes, it was okay because I’m so close, I brought a few suitcases here, went home, got another suitcase and came back a few days later.” (Male, aged 17-19, interviewed in September)

People with long-term physical health conditions are complying more with the rules, with higher overall majority and complete compliance. However, they are more concerned about catching and becoming seriously ill from the virus, and are experiencing higher depression and anxiety levels and lower life satisfaction and happiness. 

“I’m terrified of getting this virus, because I know that if I get it, it probably is the end of me. My lungs are not good…I don’t want to die in hospital and I don’t want to have that intubation and sedation” (Female, aged 75-79, interviewed in May)

Women have found the pandemic psychologically more challenging than men, with higher levels of depression, anxiety and loneliness and lower levels of life satisfaction and happiness. Women have also been more stressed about catching or becoming seriously ill from the virus and more worried about the ability of the health service to cope.

“I have little self-esteem and self-confidence; and then, because of the home schooling…I started to feel like I wasn’t a good mum, so that made me feel like I wasn’t good at anything. And that’s probably why I’m in the state that I am, I’m finding it difficult to think that I’m good at anything. I struggle to see anything positive.” (Female, aged 40-44, interviewed in September)

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

Research Updates 


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

  • Time use and mental health
  • Arts engagement in lockdown
  • Trait predictors of compliance
  • Trajectories of eating behaviour
  • Mental health of health workers 

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

  • Loneliness trajectories - Social Science & Medicine
  • Drinking behaviours - Drug & Alcohol Dependence

These 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 relationship between social isolation and mental health, attitudes to vaccination amongst smokers, and the qualitative experiences of people with long term physical and mental health conditions, older adults and freelance creative industry workers, 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 spoken to the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), provided data to Scottish government, provided evidence on the experiences of women and people with mental health conditions for mental health meetings, contributed to the Public Health England mental health dashboard, and spoken at a national conference on consequences of the pandemic for the arts and cultural sectors.

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.

Lockdown has affected your memory - here's why
See article
The Science of Covid: Who's right and who's wrong?
See video

Covid pandemic making income inequality even worse in Britain, new research suggests

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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