Hundreds of thousands of Scottish adults have felt panicked and afraid as a result of the coronavirus pandemic - new poll data into impact on mental health

26th Mar 2020

Hundreds of thousands of Scottish adults have felt panicked and afraid because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to polling data from a new longitudinal study commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation and working in partnership with the Institute of Public Health at the University of Cambridge.

The poll data was collected more than a week ago (on March 17th-19th) in a relatively early stage of the crisis and has raised concern about the potential long-term scale of the impact on mental health.

The charity now plans to re-commission the poll at regular intervals to track change over time.

According to the poll, at the time, over one in five (21 per cent) of Scottish adults had felt panicked and three in ten (31 per cent) had felt afraid because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Over one in seven people (15 per cent) had felt hopeless. In addition, one in ten (11 per cent) had felt loneliness, while over half (52 per cent) were concerned about the impact of being separated from friends and family.

Meanwhile more than six in ten adults (64 percent) have felt anxious or worried according to the YouGov poll of 1015 Scottish adults aged 18 and older. 

The Foundation now plans to use the poll  to identify specific areas of need and target effective advice and help to tackle mental health problems.

The Mental Health Foundation offers mental health advice around key areas affected by the pandemic.

Mental Health Foundation Scotland Associate Director Julie Cameron said: “This poll was carried out before full lockdown was introduced. Even at the stage there were clear indications that the pandemic was beginning to have a significant impact on the nation’s mental health.

“The concern is that the longer these levels of mental health problems continue – the worse they become for many people. Among the issues we will need to monitor going forward is impacts on levels of trauma, suicidal thoughts and mental health vulnerability. 

“That is why it is incredibly important that we act now. We are not powerless. There are many things we can do individually and collectively to tackle and prevent mental health problems with much help and advice available. 

“We also want to reassure people that it’s okay to feel stressed or anxious at this time, and it is highly likely that many of your co-workers, family and friends will be feeling the same way. That means over the coming months, it’s going to be crucial that we’re all able to talk openly and honestly about our mental health.”

The charity is currently also analysing data it has collected on the impact of financial worries, loss of control, underlying health problems, discrimination and family separation.

In addition, it is looking at people’s willingness to volunteer and show empathy with others. 

Julie said: “We are still at the beginning of getting a better picture of how people are responding to this crisis.

“But it’s important to recognize there is also good news here. There are also strong indications form the data that people are willing to volunteer to help and show feelings of empathy.

“Volunteering is one of the things we know from research that helps improve our mental health and the mental health of others.”

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1015 Scottish adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 17th - 19th March 2020.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all adults in Scotland (aged 18+).

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