The Silent Impact of Covid-19: Depression Doubles During the Pandemic

The Government has released a staggering report indicating that depression rates in Britain have doubled during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a study by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), almost 20% of people met the threshold for depression compared with one in ten before the pandemic.

People were asked to consider the previous two weeks and say how often they had experienced a range of symptoms, including changes in sleep or appetite, a loss of interest and pleasure in doing things, and difficulty concentrating.

People under 40, women, people with a disability and those who said they would struggle to meet an unexpected cost of £850 were the groups most likely to show symptoms of depression.

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The Background to the study

The study was conducted to analyse the depressive symptoms in adults in the UK before the coronavirus pandemic (July 2019 to March 2020) and during the pandemic (June 2020).

It was built on prior research that suggested levels of mental distress had risen during the pandemic. The study reviewed the same group of adults thereby providing a unique perspective on the impact of the lockdown.

The 3,500 adults taking part were asked a series of questions used to provide a self-reported measure of depression.

These questions were asked at two points in time over a 12-month period: before the coronavirus pandemic (July 2019 to March 2020) and during the coronavirus pandemic (June 2020). 

An Overview of Depression

Depression is among the most common types of mental disorders experienced by adults in Great Britain. It can affect people in different ways and can cause a wide variety of symptoms.

These symptoms range from lasting feelings of unhappiness and hopelessness, to losing interest in the things they used to enjoy and feeling very tearful.

While it is normal to feel down from time to time, people with depression may feel persistently unhappy for weeks or months on end.

Depression can affect anyone at any age and is fairly common – approximately one in ten people are likely to experience it at some point in their life.

The Main Findings

  • Almost one in five adults (19.2%) were likely to be experiencing some form of depression during the coronavirus pandemic in June 2020; almost double from around 1 in 10 (9.7%) before the pandemic (July 2019 to March 2020)
  • Adults who were aged 16 to 39 years old, female, unable to afford an unexpected expense, or disabled were the most likely to experience some form of depression during the pandemic.
  • Feeling stressed or anxious was the most common way adults experiencing some form of depression felt their well-being was being affected

It's important to note, that whilst the measure of depression used is a well-known screening questionnaire, the study is indicative of everyday depressive feelings and behaviours rather than providing an actual diagnosis.

Commentary from the Principal Research Officer

Tim Vizard, The Principal Research Officer at ONS announced;

“Today’s research provides an insight into the mental health of adults during the coronavirus pandemic. Revisiting this same group of adults before and during the pandemic provides a unique insight into how their symptoms of depression have changed over time.

Almost 1 in 5 adults were experiencing some form of depression during the pandemic, almost doubling from around one in 10 before the pandemic. Adults who were young, female, unable to afford an unexpected expense or disabled were the most likely to experience some form of depression during the pandemic.”

Where to go for help

If you are affected by the topics covered in this article, the NHS provides useful information on the symptoms of depression and support available. Every Mind Matters also provides helpful advice on looking after your mental health during the coronavirus pandemic.

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This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Written by Dr. Mike Firth, GP and Medical Director

If you have any follow-up questions don't hesitate to contact us at help@manbehindthemirror.co.uk