UK Adults Showed Mental Health Resilience During Early Months of Pandemic

Dawn O'Shea

May 12, 2021

A new study published in the  Lancet Psychiatry  reports that the mental health of most UK adults remained resilient during the early months of the pandemic.

The study was a secondary analysis of five waves of the Household Longitudinal Study from late April to early October 2020 and pre-pandemic data taken from 2018 to 2019. Mental health was assessed using the 12-item General Health Questionnaire.

Mental health was assessed in 19,763 adults (≥16 years). Approximately 3453 (17.5%) participants were from minority ethnic groups.

Mean population mental health deteriorated with the onset of the pandemic and did not begin to improve until July 2020.

Latent class analysis identified five distinct mental health trajectories up to October 2020. Most individuals in the population had either consistently good (39.3%) or consistently very good (37.5%) mental health across the first six months of the pandemic.

A recovering group (12.0%) showed worsened mental health during the initial shock of the pandemic and then returned to around pre-pandemic levels of mental health by October 2020.

The two remaining groups were characterised by poor mental health throughout the observation period. For one group (4.1%), there was an initial worsening in mental health that was sustained with highly elevated scores.

The other group (7.0%) had little initial acute deterioration in their mental health but reported a steady and sustained decline in mental health over time.

These last two groups were more likely to have pre-existing mental or physical ill-health, live in deprived neighbourhoods, and be of Asian, Black or mixed ethnicity.

Infection with SARS-CoV-2, local lockdown and financial difficulties all predicted a subsequent deterioration in mental health.

The findings show that the mental health of most UK adults remained resilient or returned to pre-pandemic levels. Around one in nine individuals had deteriorating or consistently poor mental health.

The authors advise that people living in areas affected by lockdown, those who are struggling financially, those with pre-existing conditions or those with SARS-CoV-2 infection might benefit most from early intervention.

Lancet Psych. Published online May 6, 2021. Full text


Pierce M, McManus S, Hope H, Hotopf M, Ford T, Hatch SL, John A, Kontopantelis E, Webb RT, Wessely S, Abel KM. Mental health responses to the COVID-19 pandemic: a latent class trajectory analysis using longitudinal UK data. Lancet Psychiatry. 2021 May 6 [Epub ahead of print]. doi: 10.1016/S2215-0366(21)00151-6. PMID: 33965057

This article originally appeared on Univadis, part of the Medscape Professional Network


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