Social distancing measures having “significant impact” on wellbeing, report shows

Social distancing and isolation measures are having a “significant impact” on people’s mental health and wellbeing, a major study has revealed.

The research, published by the University of Manchester, is among the first to investigate the psychological effect of the coronavirus on the general population.

According to the report, social distancing is leading to “heightening feelings of anxiety and depression”, with those in low-paid or insecure occupations reporting the lowest levels of mental wellbeing.

Likewise, some members of the general public believe social distancing measures will have a long-term effect on their mental health, such as the development of a social anxiety disorder.

“Strong feelings of loss” were also reported by the general public. For some people, this meant a loss of income, a loss of structure, a loss of routine, or a loss of social interaction.

Commenting on the study, lead author Dr Simon Williams said preventing the spread of Covid-19 through strict social distancing measures is coming at a “significant cost to mental health”.

“A rapid response is necessary in terms of public health programming to mitigate these mental health impacts,” he said.

“Waiting to provide support until after social distancing and isolation measures are relaxed or removed could have potentially devastating and lasting impacts on mental health, especially among those already socially and economically vulnerable.”

Co-author Dr Kimberly Dienes added: “Our study shows how these physical losses are having a knock-on effect in the form of emotional ‘losses’, such as a loss of self-worth, loss of motivation and a loss of meaning in daily life.”

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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