Part of a bigger picture by the Mental Health Foundation

Since March 2020, the MHF has been conducting various surveys as part of a longitudinal study into the state of the nation’s mental health during the pandemic. One constant factor during these surveys has been the persistence of those with pre-existing conditions, whether they’re physical or mental have fared worse than those without. 

Included in this most recent batch of statistics, of a sample of 4,004 UK adults surveyed in June 30% and 25% respectively said they were ‘not very anxious’ or ‘not at all anxious’ about the current lifting of restrictions. Another 33% said they were only ‘fairly anxious’ about unlocking and 8% said they were very anxious.

However, MHF found that within the group who was more worried about unlocking, a significantly high number of those people lived with long-term physical or mental conditions. Focusing in on this demographic, the MHF found that those with a long-term physical health problem that impacts their day-to-day activities were feeling especially anxious, with 59% reporting they felt ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ anxious about unlocking.

"The pandemic has clearly exacerbated existing inequalities and brought new ones to the fore." - Professor Tine Van Bortel, from the University of Cambridge and De Montfort University Leicester.

For those with a mental health condition that pre-dated the pandemic, the number of those experiencing anxiety was similarly high with, 55% reporting feeling ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ anxious. Another demographic tied in with this, that has been found to integrate with poor mental health were those who are unemployed and those who are lone parents.

A prevalent worry factor, especially for the older survey participants, was the notion of another wave of infection. Despite the number of people double vaccinated rising every week, anxiety around the delta variant, the mixed messaging in the media around it’s resistance to the vaccine and the reports around those getting ill from Covid-19 despite being vaccinated, could all be fuelling this anxiety.

On these most recent findings, Mark Rowland, Chief Executive of the MHF, said: “Since the pandemic began, our study has identified particular groups, numbering millions of people – who are more likely than other adults to have lived with loneliness, anxiety, hopelessness, stress and, for some, feeling suicidal.”

Mr Rowland continued, “These groups include people with long-term physical or mental health conditions, young adults and lone parents. We must ensure support is there for them in the recovery phase. Our Covid Response programme has been established to respond to this need, with our collaborating partners. And we want governments across the UK to follow our lead to invest in preventative work on a national scale for those who need it most.”

This continuing evidence that points towards the groups most vulnerable to the mental health fall out due to the pandemic is essential. While it is important that everyone who is experiencing the strain on their mental health receives the support they deserve, it is crucial that we ensure immediate support to those who already experienced the severe impact that a mental health condition can have on day-to-day life, before the pandemic started.