Stand out findings

The study analysed 59,482 people who had been surveyed regularly throughout the pandemic as part of twelve longitudinal studies in England. The study found that those who had reported already existing high levels of anxiety and depressive symptoms before the pandemic were 24% more likely to have had difficulty accessing medical procedures, 12% more likely to have lost their job and 33% more likely to have experienced disruptions to their prescriptions during the first eight to ten months when compared to those with an average level of anxiety and depressive symptoms.

Disruption to jobs, income and healthcare all grew in likelihood with those who had previous history of depression and anxiety.

Senior author of the paper, Dr Praveetha Patalay a professor at UCL said: “Our findings highlight that the wider health and economic impacts of the pandemic have been disproportionately experienced by those with mental health difficulties, potentially leading to worsening longer term outcomes, even post-pandemic, for those already experiencing poor mental health.”

Lead author Dr Giorgio Di Gessa from the UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Healthcare raised an interesting point that: “It is also important to note that pre-pandemic psychological distress was generally more common among women, younger generations, ethnic minorities, and those with fewer qualifications, meaning the overall impact of disruption on these groups is larger.”

This is backed up by research by Agenda, the Mental Health Foundation and the Royal College of Psychiatrists that have all emphasised that the pandemic has most adversely impacted the mental health of these demographics, especially where mental health intersects with class, race, gender and age.

In each of the longitudinal studies involved in the collated larger study, survey respondents answered questions which assessed mental health covering the period of three years before the pandemic, later they then answered questions on experiences between March and December of last year.

In order to ascertain the demographics of those most affected by the pandemic the researchers on the team of the study compared the experiences or ‘disruptions’ faced by those who showed ‘average’ levels of anxiety and depression to those who experiences higher levels, this latter group was not measured in relation to whether or not they had a clinical diagnosis.

The research team then looked at three areas of disruption brought on by the pandemic: healthcare (medication, procedures or surgeries and appointments), economic activity (employment, income, working hours), and housing (change of address or household composition). The research found that those with prior mental ill health were far more likely to face economic and healthcare disruption but had no greater likelihood of housing disruption.

Professor Chaturvedi from the Covid-19 Longitudinal Health and Wellbeing National Core study added: “UKRI support has enabled collaboration across 12 longitudinal cohort studies, allowing us to address critical pandemic-related questions that could not be answered any other way.”