We don’t yet know the long-term impact that Covid-19 will have on our mental health, but the majority of us have been destabilised.
And it really is a majority. In their most recent survey, the Office for National Statistics found that seven in 10 UK adults are worried about the effect that Covid-19 is having on their life.
Without a doubt, this pandemic has thrown a lot at us, threatening not only our health, but also our relationships, our routines and our livelihoods.
Piling on top of one another, it’s easy to see how these worries could add up to an overwhelming amount of stress for one individual. But this is happening at scale, too.
The toll that Covid-19 has already taken on the nation’s mental health as a whole is considerable. In the 10 years following the 2008 recession, the prevalence of significant mental health problems among UK adults remained steady, affecting around one in four of us. Just one month into the UK pandemic, that number shot to one in three.
Some have been affected more than others, in particular women. Research from the Institute for Social & Economic Research has shown this is most likely not related to family responsibilities, work situations or health behaviours, but rather a loss of social interaction. They found that women reported more close friends before the pandemic than men, and increased loneliness after.
Zooming in, we can also see that those on lower incomes are more likely to be experiencing higher anxiety levels.
Will this heightened anxiety become our new reality? While surveys consistently demonstrate that we are more anxious now than before the pandemic, they also show that our anxiety levels have been declining since their peak at the start of lockdown.
That could be about to change. As furlough schemes come to an end for millions of workers, and the economic fallout of four months in lockdown begins to bite harder, anxiety levels have started to creep back up again.
The first week in July saw the largest week-on-week increase in anxiety levels since lockdown started – the same week that 12,000 job losses were announced in the retail and aviation industries.
In fact, the longer the pandemic goes on, the less likely we are to think that life will soon go back to normal.
It is more important than ever that we establish coping strategies.