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Understanding the psychological and social impact of the pandemic



COVID Social Study - February 2021 Newsletter 

 

Welcome to the eighth COVID Social Study Newsletter. Over 72,000 participants have now contributed over 867,000 questionnaires over the last 47 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 conducted 221 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):

 

  • We are particularly missing the views of men and Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic groups who have had confirmed/suspected COVID-19 and who are experiencing longer term symptoms (long COVID).

 

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


Key Findings 

Some insights into this month's findings…

Brexit is worrying young adults more than COVID-19. Nearly half (42%) of young adults say they are stressed about Brexit, which is more than the proportion of young adults who are worried about catching COVID-19 (32%) and becoming seriously ill from it (22%).

People are still as concerned about financial adversities such as unemployment as they were in the summer. Young adults are the most worried about financial matters, as are those from ethnic minority backgrounds, and people living with children.

Loneliness levels are the highest they have been since the first lockdown and have been increasing since the introduction of the latest lockdown. The greatest increases in recent weeks have occurred in people living alone, those with a mental health condition, and people from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Women continue to be more impacted by the current lockdown than men, with 27% saying their lives are completely different compared to before the pandemic, compared to 22% of men. Gender differences do not appear to have changed compared to the first lockdown, where 21% of women and 15% of men said their lives were completely different than usual.


Frontline keyworker experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic

“I was so anxious about going to work … I was quite paranoid. I used to dread leaving the house every day…It was really hard” (Bus driver)

Our qualitative interviews with non-healthcare keyworkers highlight how having to continue to work during the pandemic increased anxiety in this group. Keyworkers felt exposed and vulnerable to catching the virus at work, with these fears made worse by organisational delays in implementing protective measures. Many keyworkers told us they had to purchase personal protective equipment and disinfect their own workspaces. Some even resorted to temporarily moving out of their homes to protect their family from the virus.

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:

  • Working lives and mental health of non-healthcare key workers
  • Is Google Trends a useful tool for tracking mental distress?
  • A review of mental health and neurological consequences of the pandemic
  • Self-harm thoughts and behaviours 


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

  • Mental health of health and social care workers: BMJ Open
  • Eating behaviours in lockdown: Clinical Nutrition ESPEN


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 qualitative experiences of parents with young children, adolescents and young adults, factors that have protected against self-harm during the pandemic, religion and wellbeing, and barriers and facilitators to compliance with guidelines amongst others.


Impact 

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 undertaken analyses for the COVID-19 Cabinet Task Force, the Future NHS Platform for NHS England, the Department for Transport, the Public Health England Health Inequalities and Life Course Team, and our study director Dr Daisy Fancourt has joined the World Health Organisation Expert Group on Mental Health in COVID-19, reporting results from this study.

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's metal health toll: how scientists are tracking a surge in depression
See article 

Covid-19: 'Less exercise and more TV' than first lockdown

See article

We asked 70,000 people how coronavirus affected them – what they told us revealed a lot about inequality in the UK   See article


Even the successful vaccine roll-out is not improving Britons’ moods

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.
 
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