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Understanding the psychological and social impact of the pandemic



June 2021 Newsletter 

 

Over the last 64 weeks, more than 72,000 participants have now contributed over 980,000 questionnaires to the COVID-19 Social study, helping us to understand how the pandemic has affected people across the country.

Below, we highlight our key findings including how we're seeing a rise in life satisfaction and a decline in depression and anxiety, how worries differ by age group, and which groups of people continue to report being more lonely than others. We also introduce two of our researchers working on the study and revisit some of our most impactful media pieces.



Take part in an interview
 

In addition to running our surveys, we have conducted 270 telephone or video call interviews that have helped us gain a detailed and nuanced understanding of the complex issues people have faced during the pandemic. Interviews are a vital part of our study in addition to our regular questionnaires.
 
We are looking for more participants with specific experiences to tell us how they've coped during the pandemic, including:
 

  • Young carers aged 13-24 years old who support a family member or friend (e.g. provide personal care, practical or emotional support) 
  • People experiencing financial difficulties (those who are unemployed, on a low income, have had a change in income or experienced difficulties paying for everyday essentials or bills)
  • Women who have experienced abuse from a former or current partner (physical, emotional, financial or sexual abuse, or coercion, threats or intimidation) 
  • Women aged 28 or younger who have experienced a pregnancy and accessed maternity services
  • People who have experienced homelessness  
  • People who work with drug or alcohol users, homelessness, domestic abuse or financial hardship in third sector services  

If you identify with any of these groups, or if you know anyone else who does we would love to talk to you. Please visit our website or contact Alex Burton: a.burton@ucl.ac.uk for more information. You can also sign up directly to take part here.
 
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.

Join Study

We continue to receive wonderful feedback from participants 

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

“I have found the questionnaires difficult to complete at points. Seeing how I have been personally affected has been an emotional experience. What I can tell you is each time I see my answers and see my scores drop it has spurred me on to eat better, go for walks, turn the music up, etc. Your study has been the little angel on my shoulder telling me to pull my socks back up.” (Participant)



Key findings this month

Worries about catching and falling ill with COVID-19 have been steadily declining since the start of the new year and are now lower than they have ever been. A fifth (21%) of people in our study are currently worried about catching COVID-19, whilst just under a fifth (18%) are worried about falling seriously ill from the disease.

Some groups continue to be more worried than others about catching and falling ill with COVID-19, such as people with chronic health conditions, people with lower household incomes, and women. Over the past two months, young adults (ages 18-29) have become more worried about catching COVID-19 but not becoming seriously ill from it, and worries about catching the virus are now higher in this age group than in older adults.

As restrictions for the latest lockdown have started to ease, levels of happiness and life satisfaction have been steadily increasing across all demographic groups. At the same time, depression and anxiety symptoms have been decreasing, but average levels are still similar to what they were in the autumn.

Even though wellbeing and mental health have been improving since the start of the new year, levels of loneliness have remained fairly consistent, with only slight decreases in feeling lonely over the past few months. Certain groups continue to report being lonelier than others including young adults, people living alone, those with a mental health condition, people living with children, people with lower household income and women.


Behind the scenes: meet our researchers

Dr Elise Paul and Dr Feifei Bu lead our quantitative team of researchers who have, since the start of the pandemic, received and analysed close to one million questionnaires from our participants! 

Elise specialises in mental health research, focusing particularly on what factors might lead people to engage in self-harming behaviours, as well as people’s attitudes towards vaccinations. She was consulted recently by the Guardian on public confidence in government when political leaders break social distancing rules. She has also advised the Department of Health and Social Care and the National Suicide Prevention Strategy Advisory Group.

Feifei's expertise is in identifying the social determinants of health and wellbeing. During the pandemic, she has published extensively on how people have coped with social isolation and loneliness and has tracked depression and anxiety across our cohort. Recently, Feifei was invited to contribute her findings on loneliness to the Closing the Gap Network. See her latest papers on mental health support, how UK adults have spent their time during the pandemic, and people’s coping strategies early on in the pandemic.


Publications

Visit the results page of our website to read every report and paper we’ve published since the start of the pandemic. Our latest report examines what people are currently most worried about, including worries about their families and friends and catching COVID-19.
 
We also list our preprints and published papers on our website. Here are some of our most popular papers published in the Lancet, Frontiers in Psychology, BJ Psych and the World Happiness Report.

Other papers that are in preparation, under review or in press include research on:

  • attitudes to vaccines
  • confinement at home
  • the impact of long Covid on mental health and wellbeing
  • coping strategies during the pandemic
  • factors supporting and hindering compliance with COVID-19 guidelines


In the media


The COVID-19 Social Study continues to feature in national and international press and media. Here are some of our most popular videos, articles and podcasts:

How the pandemic affects the mental health of the young | DW News

Watch video
How the pandemic has upended the lives of working parents - Women have the most to lose 

Read article

 

In their 50th episode, UCL Minds explores the long-term physical and psychological effects of the virus by talking to researchers about their groundbreaking work with "Long COVID."

Listen here
Ross Kemp discusses the UK's largest study on the psychological and social impact of the pandemic with Dr Daisy Fancourt from University College London.

Watch here


Policy

In the last month we have presented evidence to the National Suicide Prevention Strategy Advisory Group (NSPSAG) Covid-19 sub-group and undertaken analyses for the COVID-19 Cabinet Task Force, the Department for Transport, Public Health England and NHS England.

We will also be presenting evidence to the Public Health Reform Team and Strategy Unit in the Department of Health and Social Care on whether COVID-19 presents opportunities to empower and engage people in their own health.

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

Follow @C19socialstudy to keep up to date with our latest research and activities. 

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