Proportion of Brits suffering depression nearly doubles during Covid-19

Article By: TRTWorld and agencies

Britain's statistics agency says the rate of depression has jumped from 9.7 percent between July 2019 and March 2020 to 19.2 percent in June 2020.

The proportion of people in Britain suffering from depression has almost doubled during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said 19.2 percent of adults reported some form of depression during June, compared with 9.7 percent in the nine months to March 2020. Stress and anxiety were the most common types of depression listed by people, it said.

The data shared on Tuesday raises questions about the wider public health costs of a pandemic that has already left Britain with the highest excess mortality rate among major European countries, according to a recent ONS analysis.

Adults who were young, female, disabled or unable to afford an unexpected expense were most vulnerable to depression during the pandemic, the figures showed.

Following the same subjects

The ONS, which assessed the same 3,527 of adults before and during the pandemic, said around 85 percent of those reported symptoms of depression.

“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,” said statistician Tim Vizard.

Today’s @ONS published an insight into the mental health of adults during the coronavirus pandemic in Great Britain.
Here’s a short thread.

— Tim Vizard (@TimVizard) August 18, 2020
During the height of the lockdown, which was imposed on March 23 and has only been eased over the past couple of months, people were isolated from friends and family, and often alone – an isolation backdrop that has the potential to cause mental harm.

In addition, people have clearly fretted about contracting and then spreading the coronavirus in a country that now has Europe's highest covid-related death toll with more than 40,000 victims.

Many people have also been worried about their jobs and future financial well-being as the economy nose-dived in the face of the restrictions on everyday life.

Pre-recession depression

Though all age brackets reported higher levels of depression, the study found that younger adults between 16 and 39 years of age were proportionately more likely to do so, with nearly a third reporting symptoms of depression – a generational contrast to the coronavirus' impact on physical health.

"This report from the ONS presents some worrying data on the rise of depressive symptoms during the pandemic," said Elaine Fox, professor of cognitive and affective psychology at the University of Oxford.

Adults who told the ONS they would be unable to afford an unexpected expense of 850 pounds ($1 ,119) were more likely to experience some form of depression, the data showed.

"These economic factors are likely to play an important role in the nation's mental health in the coming months and years," Fox said.

The economy has already sustained a historic blow from the pandemic and the national lockdown it prompted in March.

Simon Wessely, a professor of psychiatry at King's College London, voiced worries that this occurred even before the recession really bites “when we can expect things to get even worse.”

Though the economy has contracted by a fifth during the pandemic, the government has managed to contain the number of people becoming unemployed by a special salary support programme that has been used by over a million firms to retain more than 9 million workers, who may otherwise have been fired.

READ MORE: UK sees record recession over coronavirus pandemic

A 2018 study from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development put the cost of mental health problems in Britain at around 4 percent of its annual economic output.

With the Job Retention Scheme due to end in October, there are worries that many of those jobs will be lost. In addition, there are many younger people joining the labour market at a particularly inopportune time.

Vizard said younger adults, women or disabled people were the “most likely" to experience some form of depression during the pandemic, along with those who were not able to afford a one-off but necessary purchase worth at least $1,100.

One in eight

According to the study, one in eight adults, or 12.9 percent, developed moderate to severe depressive symptoms during the pandemic, while a further 6.2 percent of the population continued to experience this level of depressive symptoms from before.

It also found that around 3.5 percent of sufferers saw an improvement during the pandemic.

Charley Baker, associate professor of mental health at the University of Nottingham, said the study's findings were “unsurprising" and that those highlighted as struggling the most are those already deemed to be more vulnerable to symptoms such as low mood, anxiety and poorer well-being.

“Perhaps we – all of us – need to reach in to proactively support people, rather than expecting people to reach out when this may be even more challenging than when in non-Covid times,” she said.


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