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Understanding the psychological and social impact of the pandemic

COVID Social Study - Newsletter 3


Welcome to the third COVID-19 Social Study Newsletter. Over 70,000 participants have now contributed over 700,000 questionnaires over the last 22 weeks (that’s one every 20 seconds since 21st March!) Through this, we continue to gather critical information on the psychological and social impact of the pandemic in the UK and have now moved from weekly to monthly survey completion.

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 conducted over 100 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 to thank you for your time):

  • Adolescents aged 13-17
  • Young adults aged 18-21 
  • Fathers of young children
  • Older adults (aged 70+) who are Black/African/Caribbean/Black British
  • Public facing transport workers (e.g. bus drivers, station staff)
  • Postal workers/delivery drivers
  • Police officers
  • Funeral service workers
  • Waste disposal workers
  • Male teachers

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

For those of you who have been participating in the study, thank you! We continue to receive wonderful feedback from participants:

Filling out the questionnaire each week has really helped me think about my own (and my family and friends') mental health and coping strategies during the last few months. I’m so grateful to all involved for that weekly prompt to reflect and adapt and wish you all the best of luck with the analysis and output.

It is rewarding for our team to hear the benefits. The time provided by our participants is so valuable to help us understand the effects of the pandemic, and crucially, to help identify what support is most needed.

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 government has stabilised across England, Scotland and Wales in recent weeks. However, it is lowest in England, and also amongst people under the age of 30, people living in urban areas, and people living in households with higher income.

“To be fair I think that any sort of trust that I had in the politicians went completely out of the window... Trust really was in the NHS and the ability for them to do what they were doing rather than trusting what the government were telling us or not telling us to do” (Telephone interview: Adult aged 65)

Many people are reporting changes in their relationships since lockdown came in. 18% say their relationship with their spouse has deteriorated, compared to 27% reporting improvements. 17% say their relationship with children in the home has worsened, but 35% are reporting improvements. 8% report their relationships with neighbours have worsened, but 26% say they have improved.

“We’ve got into quite a nice routine, my wife and I. We’d maybe walk the dog, have a nice coffee, do a couple of crosswords and have lunch, play table tennis every afternoon. We now watch a film regularly in the evening…I’m quite enjoying aspects of this…obviously spent more time together as a couple…so arguably closer, in a way” (Telephone interview: Adult aged 66)

26% of people say they have experienced some form of discrimination since lockdown came in. Discrimination experiences have been higher amongst younger adults (40% aged 18-30 reporting discrimination vs 16% of people aged 60+), women (27% vs men 25%), people from BAME groups (42% vs 24% amongst people of white ethnicity), and in urban areas (27% vs 22% reported in rural areas).

“At times…people seem to move away from me, because they are thinking some racist thing, that people of colour, they have a tendency of having the virus. So, at times I just look at how people just see me, and…whether it’s in my head, I don’t know” (Telephone interview: Adult aged 53)
Many people have felt the same about their neighbourhoods since lockdown came in. But 29% report feeling their neighbourhood has become more supportive and that shared values have increased, 18% feel the neighbourhood has become closer, 10% feel things are more cohesive, and 8% trust their neighbours more than before. Fewer than 6% of people feel that neighbourhoods have deteriorated in any way.
“We’ve got to know a lot of the neighbours that we never really knew before…It’s like this small community has really come out to shine…it’s also given people an opportunity to look after their neighbours and do things for one another, which really didn’t happen before. It’s been lovely to see” (Telephone interview: Adult aged 49)
Only 10% of people reported that once the pandemic is over, they think they will return to living exactly as they did before Covid-19, while 2% think they will entirely change their way of living. Overall, 51% of people felt they were more likely on balance to return to how things were before, and 22% felt they were more likely to change things. 40% felt they will increase their support for local business, 33% felt they will save more money, 35% think they will exercise more, and 9% feel they will change their job.
“I have been looking at other arts jobs, in terms of diversifying my skillset. So, not only teaching but maybe arts management because it tends to offer a bit more job security, but that comes as a real gripe to me because it’s not what I’m happy doing. It’s had me think okay, If I’m not going to be in a studio, I’m still going to work in the arts. So, what else can I do?”  (Telephone interview: Adult aged 29, freelance artist)

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 papers in the Lancet, Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health & Tobacco Control, amongst others.

Our pre-prints and peer-reviewed scientific papers on the Covid-19 Social Study data cover topics including:

  • Time spent engaging in activities and mental health
  • Are happier people more compliant with guidelines?
  • The effect of political actions on public trust in the government
  • Risk factors for loneliness during lockdown
  • Experience of adversities by socio-economic position
  • Adversities, worries and sleep quality
  • Experiences of abuse, self-harm and suicidal thoughts

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 coping styles during the pandemic, use of mental health services, and arts engagement during the pandemic.


We have been presenting results and providing data to a number of policy bodies including Independent SAGE, the Independent Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours (SPI-B), as well as continuing our weekly reports to the cabinet office, wider government departments, the Office for National Statistics, Public Health England, and dozens of other organisations.

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.

Researchers identify ‘Cummings effect’ undermining public trust in government during lockdown 
See article

The dangerous legacy of the Cummings affair
See article

A quarter of people in the UK have experienced discrimination since COVID-19 lockdown 
See article

Experts and scientists discuss: How to Avoid a Second Wave
Watch programme

A ‘substantial’ number of people plan to change lifestyle after pandemic ends
See article

Profile on our supporters

This week we are delighted to hear from Cheryl Lloyd, Programme Head at the Nuffield Foundation. The Nuffield Foundation provides independent evidence on topics that affect people’s daily lives and their well-being. They are providing funding for the COVID-19 Social Study:
"We are proud to be funding the COVID-19 Social Study which has provided valuable insights into the psychological and social impacts of the crisis by tracking people’s experiences as the pandemic has unfolded. Although the pandemic has touched everyone’s lives, the findings show us that the effects of the crisis have not been equally felt. These survey responses can make a real impact, by helping policy makers to identify those most in need of additional support to mitigate the health, social and economic impacts of COVID-19."
Cheryl Lloyd – Programme Head, Nuffield Foundation

Thank you Nuffield Foundation for your support!

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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