Hundreds of thousands of Scots feeling hopeless, as lockdown eases: new findings from the Mental Health Foundation

9th Jul 2020

One in seven Scottish adults (16%) has felt hopeless because of the pandemic according to new research published by the Mental Health Foundation Scotland.

The data was published as part of a major longitudinal study into mental health called Coronavirus: Mental Health and the Pandemic.

  • One in seven Scottish adults (16%) feeling hopeless 
  • One quarter (25%) of unemployed people feeling hopeless
  • One quarter (25%) of young adults aged 18 to 24 feeling hopeless
  • One quarter (26%) of people with pre-existing mental health conditions feeling hopeless
  • At same time levels of anxiety and worry falls among Scottish adults as a whole

The research identified that, as the pandemic has continued, there has been a divergence of experience with key vulnerable groups being worst affected.

One of the groups most seriously affected by feelings hopelessness was young adults. One quarter (25%) of 18 to 24 year-olds said they had felt hopeless as a result of the pandemic during the  previous two weeks.

Another group that is significantly affected was unemployed people. One quarter of unemployed people said they had felt hopeless over the last two weeks.

At the same time one quarter (26%) of people with pre-existing mental health conditions said they were feeling hopeless.

The polling of 2004 Scottish adults aged 18 and above was carried out on 18 to 26 June. The first wave of the survey was originally launched on 17 to 19 March 2020.

The new data are from the Mental Health in the Pandemic study, which started in mid-March and is led by the Mental Health Foundation, in partnership with the Universities of Cambridge, Swansea, Strathclyde and Belfast.

Lee Knifton, Director of Mental Health Foundation Scotland and Northern Ireland said: “What the research shows is that even as lockdown is easing, millions are still struggling. Overall, about one in seven five people in Scotland are experiencing of hopelessness.

“But dig down a bit deeper into the research and you find that we’re not all in this together. Some are particularly vulnerable.

“In particular, our research showed that young adults, people with existing mental health problems and unemployed people are struggling more than the rest of the population as a whole.

“It’s clear the pandemic remains a much more devastating experience for certain groups That is why we need to urgently see a whole-government mental health response and recovery plan.”

The research also found indications of better news. Levels of anxiety and worry have fallen across the population from 64% of Scottish adults at the beginning of lockdown to 49% in the most recent survey.

Lee added: “It is good news that anxiety and worry has fallen, but this should not obscure the fact that vulnerable groups are actually struggling more.

“The Scottish and UK Governments must respond to their needs, and take an all-government approach.

“Intervention is needed urgently to prevent many people’s current mental distress from escalating into tragic consequences.

“This research clearly identifies where some of those areas of most need are – including young adults and people with existing mental health problems.”

A new briefing – Smaller Boats in the COVID-19 Storm – the divergence of mental health experience during the pandemic – reveals more of the latest data. It also recommends specific actions that UK and devolved governments can take to help protect UK adults’ mental health from further deterioration.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2004 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 18th - 26th June 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all Scottish adults (aged 18+).

Notes to editors

For graphics, interviews and information, please email [email protected] .

The Mental Health Foundation is leading and sponsoring this 4-nation longitudinal study. It is using repeated cross-sectional surveys, via YouGov. Survey participants are different on each sampling occasion but taken from the same pool and representative of the UK. The survey will cover approximately 20 topics, including the pandemic’s impact on mental health and the key drivers of risk.

The lead academic partner is the Institute for Public Health at Cambridge University (offering opportunities for Ethics Committee approval and publication as peer-reviewed research). The other academic partners are Swansea University, Strathclyde University and Queens University Belfast.

We are also using a Citizens Jury to contribute qualitative information, narrative personal stories, and comments on our data.

We produce regular briefings. Our data can be used to inform policy action. We welcome thoughts on briefing topics that would be interesting and important to inform action.

All calculations about numbers of people affected were done by the Mental Health Foundation.

The Mental Health Foundation: Our vision is of good mental health for all. The Mental Health Foundation works to prevent mental health problems. We will drive change towards a mentally healthy society for all, and support communities, families and individuals to lead mentally healthy lives with a particular focus on those at greatest risk. The Foundation is the home of Mental Health Awareness Week.

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