Coronavirus: UK lockdown leads to spike in mental health issues

By Alice Young

A mental health study has shown an increase in reported cases of depression and anxiety following the Prime Minister’s announcement of a lockdown on 23 March.

Research by Sheffield University showed an increase in the number of people reporting significant levels of depression and anxiety the day after Boris Johnson addressed the country with his dramatic measures to tackle the spread of coronavirus.

On Tuesday 24 March, 38 per cent of 2000 participants reported significant depression and 36 per cent reported significant anxiety.

However – on the day before the announcement, the figures show that only 16 per cent reported significant depression and 17 per cent significant anxiety.

Data showing the rate of depression – research by University of Sheffield and Ulster University

Data showing the rate of anxiety – research by University of Sheffield and Ulster University

The team of experts was led by Professor Richard Bentall, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Sheffield.

Professor Bentall said: “We were surprised to see a spike in the number of people reporting significant levels of depression and anxiety immediately after the announcement of a lockdown.

“The rates of reported mental health problems are higher but not dramatically different to those observed in previous, similar surveys.”

The research indicated that despite the rise in mental health problems, many people are nonetheless remaining resilient and faring well – and that almost everyone is following government advice to avoid spreading the virus.

A mental health charity in Leeds has geared up for an increase in demand to their services over the coming weeks.

Leeds Mind has launched the #LeedsMindTogether campaign which aims to keep the community connected.

Helen Kemp, the Chief Executive of the charity, said: “With the government advice to ‘stay at home’ meaning that human interaction has become limited, we anticipate that demand for our support will only increase in the coming weeks and months.

“We’ve closed our buildings, suspended face-to-face services and support is being delivered virtually from own staff members’ own homes. But we are still here.

“We’re determined to continue our work towards better mental health for all, which feels more important than ever during such testing times.”

Over the next few months, the team of researchers from Sheffield University will be leading further research to see how mental health symptoms change as the pandemic progresses in the UK.

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