Anxiety and depression levels fall as UK lockdown lifts

Levels of anxiety and depression in the UK have fallen as lockdown restrictions begin to lift, a major study has revealed.

The research, published by University College London (UCL), adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting that Covid-19 social distancing measures are having a significant impact on our mental health.

The survey of more than 90,000 adults is part of an ongoing research project launched in the weeks before lockdown and is the largest of its kind to monitor the mental impact of the coronavirus on the nation.

According to the latest results, average depression levels have decreased among under-60s as the lockdown has eased.

However, young people, those living alone, those with lower household income, people with a diagnosed mental illness, people living with children, and people living in urban areas still report the highest levels of anxiety and depression. This includes higher rates of thoughts of death and self-harm, experience of self-harm, and/or loneliness.

Elsewhere, average life satisfaction scores have risen to six out of 10, compared to 5.5 when the lockdown was first announced.

Commenting on the figures, Lead author Dr Daisy Fancourt said: “It is encouraging that levels of anxiety and depression have both fallen as lockdown has eased. However, the levels being reported by participants are still worse than usual reported averages.

“While our sample is not random, meaning direct comparisons to usual averages are complex, we have good representation across demographic groups and all data are weighted to population proportions for key demographics.”

Cheryl Lloyd, Education Programme Head at the Nuffield Foundation – which funded the project, added: “Whilst it is reassuring that levels of anxiety and depression have begun to decrease as lockdown lifts, it is important that researchers continue to carefully monitor the psychological impacts of the pandemic, especially as the social and economic impacts of COVID-19 are likely to be long-lasting.”

The latest figures suggest that around one in four people in the UK experience a mental health problem each year, with the most common illnesses being anxiety and depression.

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