Millions still feeling hopeless as lockdown eases: new briefing from the Mental Health Foundation

9th Jul 2020

Millions still feeling hopeless as lockdown eases: new briefing from the Mental Health Foundation.

  • Almost one in five (19%) of UK adults feel hopeless 
  • More than one-quarter (27%) of unemployed people feel hopeless
  • Almost one-third (32%) of young adults aged 18-24 feel hopeless
  • Almost one-third (31%) of people with pre-existing mental health conditions feel hopeless
  • At the same time, the level of anxiety and worry falls among UK adults overall

According to new research, almost one in five UK adults surveyed felt hopeless because of the pandemic during the first half of June.

The data are published as part of a major longitudinal study called Coronavirus: Mental Health and the Pandemic, led by the Mental Health Foundation in partnership with the Universities of Cambridge, Swansea, Strathclyde and Queen’s University Belfast.

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

One of the groups most seriously affected by feelings of hopelessness is young adults. Almost one-third (32%) of 18-to-24 year-olds surveyed said they had felt hopeless due to the pandemic during the first half of June.

Another group that is significantly affected is unemployed people. More than a quarter of unemployed people surveyed said they had felt hopeless during the first half of June.

At the same time, almost one-third (31%) of people with pre-existing mental health conditions surveyed said they had felt hopeless over the same period.

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.

The latest polling, of 4,294 UK adults aged 18 and above, was done between 18 to 22 June.

“Our research shows that even as lockdown is easing, millions are still struggling,” said Dr Antonis Kousoulis, Director at the Mental Health Foundation.

“That is why we urgently need to see a whole-government mental health response and recovery plan. We’re not all in this together. Clearly, the pandemic remains a much more devastating experience for certain groups - who number millions of people.”

The research also found indications of better news. Levels of anxiety and worry about the pandemic have fallen across the population, from 62% of UK adults surveyed at the beginning of lockdown to 49% of those responding to the most recent survey.

A new briefing – Coronavirus: the divergence of mental health experience during the pandemic – reveals more of the latest data.

It also recommends specific actions that the UK and devolved governments can take to help protect UK adults’ mental health from further deterioration.

Professor Tine Van Bortel of the University of Cambridge said: “It is good news that anxiety and worry have fallen, but this should not obscure the fact that vulnerable groups are actually struggling more.

“The UK and devolved governments must respond to their needs to prevent many people’s current mental distress from escalating into tragic long-term consequences.

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

“We know that socio-economic inclusion of all social groups is crucial for people’s wellbeing, thriving communities and a flourishing economy.

“Any policies and strategies going forward should therefore be developed in meaningful consultation and partnership with all key stakeholder groups and the wider public to ensure that they adequately and sustainably address all needs in going forward. There is a unique opportunity to do things better and get it right now.”

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. The total sample size was 4,294 UK adults 18+. Fieldwork was undertaken between 18 to 22 June 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and represent all UK adults (aged 18+).


Notes for Editors

To get a copy of the new briefing and for interviews, graphics and further information, please email Rachel Baird at [email protected] or [email protected] or call 07749 159 029. 

The Mental Health Foundation is leading and sponsoring this 4-nation longitudinal study. It uses 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 the University of Cambridge. The other academic partners are Swansea University, Strathclyde University and Queens University Belfast. Ethical approval has been obtained from the Cambridge Psychology Research Ethics Committee.

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 the number of people affected were done by the Mental Health Foundation.

The Mental Health Foundation: Our vision is for 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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