Anxiety levels “double” during lockdown, study reveals

Anxiety levels among young people have almost doubled during the coronavirus pandemic, a major study has revealed.

The research, published by the University of Bristol, adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting that the crisis will have a devasting long-term impact on our mental wellbeing.

The new report looks at around 7,000 young people between the age of 27 and 29 who have been followed since their birth as part of a wider study known as the “Children of the 90s”. Each participant was asked to complete questionnaires about their mental health and lifestyle before and during lockdown.

According to the survey, participants’ anxiety levels have nearly doubled during the Covid-19 pandemic, rising from 13 to 24 per cent. This trend is most prominent in women, those with pre-existing mental and physical health conditions, those living alone, those self-isolating as a result of COVID-19 and those who had experienced recent financial problems.

Interestingly, the research found no link between an increased risk of anxiety in key workers or health care workers.

Commenting on the study, co-lead researcher Alex Kwong, Senior Research Associate in Psychiatric Genetic Epidemiology at the University of Bristol, said: “This rise in anxiety leads to more questions we will seek to answer in the second Children of the 90s questionnaire.

“Getting a good response to this is so important to give researchers a clearer picture of the factors behind a rise in anxiety – whether it’s a fear of the virus itself, or the financial difficulties or social isolation it may have caused.”

Co-lead researcher Rebecca Pearson, Senior Lecturer in Psychiatric Epidemiology and the University of Bristol, added: “The findings suggest that there is a need to protect mental health at this time (especially managing anxiety) and support mental health services.

“The findings also provide evidence for specific groups at greater mental health risk, such as those living alone. This could suggest that policy changes such as the recent introduction of ‘supportive bubbles’ for single adults and single parents, could be beneficial to mental health, but we need to understand the role of social isolation better and further provision for those most isolated may be needed.”

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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