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Understanding the psychological and social impact of the pandemic

COVID Social Study - August 2020

Welcome to the second COVID Social Study Newsletter. With over 70,000 participants, contributing their experiences over the last 20 weeks, 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 are currently looking for more participants from specific groups to take part in a telephone or video call interview about their experiences during the pandemic:

  • Adolescents aged 13-17 years old
  • Older adults (aged 70+) who are Black/African/Caribbean/Black British
  • People with long term physical health conditions who are Black/African/Caribbean/ Black British
  • Freelance workers from BAME groups
  • Health and social care workers who are Black/African/Caribbean/Black British
  • Public transport workers
  • Postal workers/delivery drivers
  • Police officers
  • Funeral service 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 study, please contact Alex Burton.

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

I wanted to say thank you for conducting this research. I am sure that the results of this research have been and will be extremely useful, and I have found it to be extremely beneficial on a personal level. I have found that the opportunity to sit down once a week and effectively conduct a personal mental/emotional inventory check and actually ask myself how I am dealing with the demands placed upon me has been absolutely invaluable.

It is rewarding for our team to hear the benefits. The time provided each week 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.

For more information or to take part, visit our website 


Key Findings 

Some insights into this month's findings…

Levels of depression have continued to decline as lockdown has further eased across UK nations. In particular, depressive symptoms have decreased most in younger adults, narrowing the gap between age groups that was most apparent during strict lockdown.

People from BAME backgrounds have had higher levels of depression, anxiety and loneliness across the pandemic, and lower levels of happiness and life satisfaction. They have also been more worried about unemployment and financial stress.

“My neighbours…they’ve got people coming in from day one, all sorts of people coming and going and everything. They’ve never been in the lockdown or anything like that. …It’s…affecting the BAME people more than anybody else, they don’t seem to be considering it. There seems to be even more discrimination now to people like myself ”
(Telephone interview: Adult with long term health conditions, aged 59)

Nearly half of respondents (45%) reported that they are about the same financially to before lockdown, with 27% reporting improvements in their financial situation and 29% reporting that things had got worse.

“Well, financially, I went from feeling that I was really able to pay my bills, to completely cut off bare. I’m lucky that I’ve managed to get something out of the self-employment scheme, so I have been supported somewhat by that, but it’s only so much, and it doesn’t cover everything.”
(Telephone interview: Creative freelancer, aged 29)

1 in 10 people reported being unable to see or speak with a GP about their physical health since lockdown began, along with 1 in 20 being unable to speak with a professional about their mental health. The groups who faced most barriers or who did not access healthcare included younger adults, women, individuals from BAME backgrounds, and people with physical and mental health conditions.

“I struggled at the beginning of the lockdown with more anxiety and depression and mentioned it to the nurse at the surgery, their response was that, even if I did need to see someone, there was no-one virtually to refer me to anyway. So, it hasn’t felt as though, if I’d needed support in that way, that there would have been any available really from the health service.”
(Telephone interview: Adult with mental health condition, aged 50)
During strict lockdown, 9 in 10 people reported understanding the rules about what they should be doing to prevent the spread of the virus. As lockdown eased, understanding of the rules was reported to be highest in Scotland (75%) but lower in Wales (61%), and lowest in England (45% reporting understanding and only 14% ‘very much so’). This is notable as compliance has been lower in England compared to Scotland and Wales.
“Nothing but [confusion], really. It’s starting to make me feel angry… Since they’ve started changing it, god knows. Nobody’s got a clue. It changes every day”
(Telephone interview: Adult with long term health conditions, aged 65)

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

Research Updates 


We also have a number of pre-prints and peer-reviewed scientific papers on the Covid-19 Social Study data. These cover topics including:

  • Patterns of depression in vulnerable groups
  • Predictors of volunteering behaviours during lockdown
  • Risk factors for loneliness during lockdown
  • Trajectories of loneliness during lockdown
  • Experience of adversities by socio-economic position
  • Experiences of abuse, self-harm and suicidal thoughts
  • Trust in government to handle the pandemic

These can be viewed here.

Look out for our latest paper coming out in The Lancet this Friday 7th August! Further papers are in preparation, under review, or in press and will be added shortly.


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

We have also been presenting results and providing data to a number of policy bodies including the Prime Minister’s office, World Health Organisation, governments across the UK, Cabinet Office, a number of All Party Parliamentary Groups on topics including suicide prevention, loneliness, compassionate politics, arts and health, and COVID-19, Public Health England, NHS England, local governments, and hundreds of community organisations across the UK.

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


How social isolation affects the brain
See article

Fifth of vulnerable people considered self-harm in UK lockdown

See article 

Half of English public don't understand lockdown rules, UCL study finds

See article 

Profile on our supporters

We would like to highlight the fantastic work of one of our supporters, Tarakiwho work with Punjabi communities to create spaces where all individuals can access mental health awareness, education, and support to better care for themselves and one-another. Taraki have helped increase participation in the study from members of the Punjabi community.

Working with the COVID-19 Social Study has been an enlightening process and has provided an important platform to provoke similar conversations within local communities. Social and psychological well-being at this time is broad and complex, but the COVID-19 Social Study team do a brilliant job of approaching this with genuine curiosity and a motivation to work towards improved health and well-being for all.”
Shuranjeet Singh - Founder and Director

Thank you Taraki 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

Our mailing address is:
UCL Department of Behavioural Science and Health
University College London
1-19 Torrington Place
London WC1E 7HB

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