Diagnosis rates of depression and anxiety fall during Covid-19 lockdown

The diagnosis rates of common mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, have halved during the coronavirus lockdown, a major study has revealed.

The research, published by the University of Manchester and the National Institute for Health Research Greater Manchester Patient Safety Translational Research Centre (NIHR GM PSTRC), is among the first to study the impact of Covid-19 on primary care services in the UK.

To carry out the investigation, the researchers analysed the electronic health records of some 250,000 people living in Salford between 01 March and 31 May 2020.

It was discovered that, when compared to pre-lockdown levels, the diagnosis rates of common physical and mental health conditions had reduced “significantly”.

The biggest gap between expected diagnosis rates and actual rates were observed among mental health conditions, Type 2 diabetes and circulatory system diseases, such as stroke, heart failure and coronary heart disease.

Rather than levels of illness falling, the alarming findings indicate that thousands of people may be suffering from physical and mental health conditions without receiving the appropriate treatment.

The study also shows that many people may be hesitant to visit primary care services, such as their GP, in fear of breaching lockdown rules.

Commenting on the study, Richard Williams, research lead for the study at the GM PSTRC, said: “We were aware that GP practices have been reporting a drop in the number of patients seeking medical help since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to electronic health records it is possible to investigate whether this is true across a large urban area like Salford.

“Importantly our research has revealed which conditions people are not seeking medical attention for. This means that, potentially, there are high numbers of people living with undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes, mental health conditions and circulatory system failure.”

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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