Lockdown Massive increase in anxiety and depression diagnoses

According to researchers from the University of Bath, levels of depression and anxiety in the UK have “significantly increased” due to restrictions and isolation during the UK’s first COVID-19 lockdown.

Psychologists in the University’s Addiction and Mental Health Group conducted a detailed systematic review of 14 studies involving more than 46,000 participants. The research, published in the British Journal of Clinical Psychology found that the prevalence of diagnosed depression increased eightfold from a pre-pandemic level of approximately 4% of the population to 32% (95% CI 29.00 to 35.00) after the first confinement, which began 2 years ago on March 23, 2020.

Similarly, diagnosed cases of anxiety, which affected about 5% of the population before the pandemic, increased more than sixfold to 31% (95% CI 26.00 to 35.00).

Global Mental Health Emergency

These rates largely agree with studies from other countries, the authors found. “The COVID-19 pandemic has created a global state of emergency affecting not only physical health but also mental health,” they said. It “has had adverse effects on the mental health of individuals around the world”.

Principal Investigator, Dr Gemma Taylor, PhD, Lecturer in the Department of Psychology, said: “We all know the dramatic lockdown has had on our lives, and 2 years later, it’s a time to pause and reflect on some of the long term effects this period has had on our mental health.

“Our study shows a sharp rise in depression and anxiety following lockdown. These are challenges that cannot be solved overnight. Addressing them will require far greater resources to ensure that those who have them need can access psychological support Psychological support is not cheap, and services are notoriously underfunded.

“While there is good news for people’s mental health in relation to vaccination rates and the return to some degree of normalcy in the UK, we need to be aware of these possible lasting health effects. mental health that confinement has had on many of us.”

Future research should be longitudinal, to explore changes in the prevalence of anxiety and depression during subsequent lockdowns, the team recommends.

“While it is plausible that the population has become accustomed to the restrictions, it is also plausible that mental health has deteriorated over time.”

They called for greater availability of evidence-based psychological interventions, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, and said: “It is vital that policy makers and mental health services redouble their efforts to monitor the health mental illness and provide interventions to support those in need.”

1 in 3 adults reported deterioration in their mental health

The team’s findings are consistent with a survey by the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych), also published this week, in which 1 in 3 UK adults reported a deterioration in their mental health over the past 2 years. Young people were more affected than older people – 42% of those under 35 said their mental health had deteriorated, compared to 10% of people aged 65 and over.

The nationwide poll of 2,247 people also showed that the most vulnerable were the hardest hit. The proportion of those who said their mental health had deteriorated compared to 2 years ago was:

  • 4 in 5 (81%) of those with pre-existing mental health issues

  • More than half (52%) of adults with a disability

  • 2 in 5 (41%) people with a pre-existing physical health condition

In a statement, RCPsych said: “More needs to be done to prevent mental illness. The College is launching the Center for Public Mental Health Implementation to improve awareness and uptake of evidence-based programs to prevent mental illness and improve resilience and well-being following the pandemic.” The Center will publish and provide advice to NHS commissioners, trusts and others.

Dr Trudi Seneviratne, Registrar at the College, said: “The pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the country’s mental health, with 1 in 3 people saying their mental health has deteriorated in the past 2 years. There are proven strategies to prevent mental illness, but a lack of funding and knowledge has impeded progress.

“The Public Mental Health Implementation Center will drive awareness and adoption of evidence-based programs that prevent mental illness. We must learn lessons for the future and the next pandemic. Investing in evidence-based prevention and protection programs makes moral, medical, and economic sense. . This saves money and, above all, saves lives. »

Government must ‘wake up’ to mental health crisis

The RCPsych also reported earlier this month “unprecedented demand for specialist mental health care” in 2021, with a record 4.3 million referrals to mental health services as the pandemic continued to weigh. on people’s mental health. Analysis of NHS Digital data showed there were 3.3 million referrals to adult services and 1.025 million under-18 referrals in England between January and December 2021.

By the time the Omicron variant arrived in December, a record 1 million people were receiving specialist treatment for mental health issues, including substance abuse, anxiety, depression, eating disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder, and 1.4 million people were still awaiting treatment.

Dr Adrian James, Chairman of RCPsych, said: “As pressure on services continues to mount, government silence continues to be a serious concern for the College, all mental health staff and, above all, our patients.

“The warning of the long tail of mental illness caused by the pandemic has gone unheeded. Thousands of people will wait far too long for the treatment they need unless the government wakes up to the engulfing crisis the country .”

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