COVID-19 UK: Mental Health Insights – Part 2: A Focus on Anxiety and Depression

Base: 1000 UK app-based citizens

Male/Female: 30%/70%

18-34 y.o./35+ y.o.: 55%/45%

Using the CitizenMe platform, we went out to our COVID-19 community, which is an open-data research project designed to enable the world's citizens to share real-time opinions and data about COVID-19 with the institutions fighting the pandemic.

Key Results

We conducted a survey with our UK COVID-19 community to investigate how citizens are coping with the pandemic from a mental health perspective. 

The opening question of our survey was asking Citizens - if they felt comfortable doing so - to share whether they had a current diagnosed mental health condition. If a respondent felt uncomfortable answering this question, they could select ‘prefer not to say’ and continue with the survey. We received a great response, with the majority choosing to share by answering this question. The belief in ethical data, translating into more mental health data being visible, is a great benefit of the new data economy we at CitizenMe have and are creating:

We saw that 26% of respondents reported that they have anxiety, 19% suffer from depression or a depressive disorder, and 55% say they haven’t been diagnosed with a mental health disorder. Further investigation of these three subgroups provided some extremely worrying insights. 

Those with mental health disorders are isolating more, but at what risk?

The UK government’s current advice is for everyone to carry out social distancing, unless individuals are classed as key workers and cannot work from home. We can see in our results that if respondents have either depression (35%) or anxiety (31%) they are more likely to be self-isolating without medical advice, compared to those with no diagnosed mental health disorder (22%). From one perspective, this can be seen as a positive: self-isolation is limiting the spread of COVID-19 as some individuals may have the virus yet not show any signs of having it. But more ominously, it indicates a vulnerability among those with mental health issues: in their willingness to self-isolate, they are potentially risking their mental health still further through a lack of human interaction:

More pessimistic or just being realistic?

What many people want to know about COVID-19 is: When will all this end? And so when asking respondents how long they think it will take for the COVID-19 situation to improve for them, we see a difference when comparing those with anxiety and depression with those without a mental health condition. Whilst the majority of respondents agree that it will be between 3-5 or 6-8 months for the situation to change, there is a higher percentage of those saying it will take longer than a year among respondents with anxiety (18%) or depression (22%) (see chart below). The latter is illustrative of a more pessimistic view of the situation, but with COVID-19 being unprecedented and affecting all elements of current life, and on a global scale, no one can know when life will improve. What we do know is that such uncertainty in so many areas of life can only both cause and exacerbate stress and worries, and this will be far more acute among those with diagnosed - or indeed undiagnosed - mental health issues.

We need to look after those who are vulnerable, now more than ever

Most importantly, we asked how all Citizens' mental health had changed since the COVID-19 outbreak. Whilst 60% of those without a mental health condition felt that their mental health has stayed the same, those with depression (63%) and anxiety (64%) were much more likely to rate their mental health as having worsened:

This percentage difference is alarmingly high and clearly points to mental health conditions worsening since the COVID-19 outbreak. This pandemic isn’t just directly affecting the health of the UK public; the current lockdown situation is also indirectly playing upon - and exacerbating - other diagnosed health issues. 

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