Levels of depression and anxiety rose sharply over December in the UK, especially among young adults, reaching similar levels to lockdown at the start of 2021, according to new findings from the Covid-19 Social Study.
The research also found that confidence in devolved governments’ handling of Covid-19 fell in England and Wales over the same period (between the end of November and start of January), but remained steady in Scotland. In England, the level of confidence was close to the lowest level recorded during the pandemic back in October 2020.
The new findings are based on a survey of 31,151 people taken in the first week of January 2022 as part of the ongoing Covid-19 Social Study, which has regularly surveyed more than 70,000 respondents since March 2020, tracking people’s experiences of the pandemic. The study is funded by the Nuffield Foundation, UKRI and Wellcome.
The new survey also found a drop – compared to the last survey, conducted in the week of 22-28 November – in reported life satisfaction and happiness, with life satisfaction and happiness reaching their lowest levels since March 2021.
Lead author Dr Daisy Fancourt (UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care) said: “The findings reported here highlight the ongoing adverse effects of the pandemic on mental health. Even though there were many fewer restrictions this Christmas compared with Christmas 2020, levels of anxiety and depression were on a par with the same time last year. Our findings suggest that it is not just the presence of social restrictions that affect mental health but also concerns and stressors relating to high levels of the virus and a high risk of infection.
“The decrease in confidence in government to handle the pandemic likely contributed to the stresses many people faced over this period.”