A third of Scottish adults in full-time work are worried about losing their jobs – as unemployed people show signs of serious mental health problems, the Mental Health Foundation Scotland Coronavirus Study finds.
- A third (33%) of Scottish adults surveyed and in full-time work are concerned about losing their jobs
- One in six (16%) unemployed people surveyed say they have had suicidal thoughts and feelings within the last two weeks
- Nearly a third (32%) of Scottish adults say they are worrying about their finances, such as bill payments and debt.
A third of Scottish adults in full-time work are worried about losing their jobs, according to new data from a study tracking the mental health risks and impacts of the pandemic.
The latest research, done on 23 April to 1 May, also found that one in six unemployed adults surveyed said they had had suicidal thoughts and feelings during the last two weeks.
Another finding of the new survey is that nearly a third of all adults surveyed said they were worried about their finances, such as bill payments and debts.
The survey data, from 2056 Scottish adults aged 18 and over, were collected as part of a major UK-wide longitudinal research project called Coronavirus: Mental Health in the Pandemic.
“Our research is starting to reveal how the financial and employment inequalities caused and exacerbated by the pandemic are affecting people’s mental health,” said Director of Mental Health Foundation Scotland Lee Knifton.
“We have very concerning evidence that hundreds of thousands of people in Scotland are worrying about fundamental financial matters and their job security – both of which are closely linked to poor mental health.
“However, it is also important to recognise that within the overall picture, it is people who were already unemployed at the start of the pandemic who are being most seriously affected. It is disturbing that more than one in six people unemployed people surveyed say they have had suicidal thoughts and feelings within the last two weeks.
“Without further, rapid government action to improve people’s economic security, we can expect things to get worse, especially for the poorest. The financial inequalities that lead to increased and unequal rates of mental ill-health will be intensified - and the benefits of recovery and coming out of the lockdown will not be shared equally.”
The project to track how the pandemic is affecting people’s mental health is being led by the Mental Health Foundation in partnership with the University of Strathclyde, Swansea University, University of Cambridge and Queen’s University Belfast.
Professsor Alec Morton from Strathclyde University said: “Our research shows the scale of the psychological trauma which the country is facing and highlights that for many, this is mediated by real concerns about how to pay the bills.
“Tragically, much of the pain is being borne by those who were struggling to get by even before the pandemic hit. These findings challenge us as a society to come up with a collective response which is commensurate with the scale of the challenge.”
The latest survey asked people about their mental health and how they had coped in relation to the pandemic over the “previous two weeks”.
The Mental Health Foundation is calling for the Scottish and UK Governments to provide an economic safety net for all, both during and after the pandemic. As a first step, the Universal Credit advance payment should immediately be made a grant, removing the current requirement to repay it over the following 12 months.
A detailed briefing paper about financial and employment inequality and mental health in the pandemic, based on the latest findings from the study, is available.
Mental health advice on tackling financial problems and unemployment is also available.
To report on suicide without contributing towards further suicides, media organisations can follow existing and COVID-19-specific media guidelines, such as Samaritans and International Association for Suicide Prevention (PDF).
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,056 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 23 to 1 May 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
Notes to editors
The Foundation’s full recommendations for government action to tackle financial and employment insecurity in the context of the pandemic are shown in the more detailed briefing on our website. Recommendations include that as a first step, the Universal Credit advance payment should immediately be made a grant, removing the current requirement to repay it over the following 12 months. For the duration of the pandemic and the follow-on economic downturn, this grant should be given to all applicants, regardless of their circumstances. In the medium term, the Government should convene an expert Taskforce to consider the learning from the Covid-19 crisis and develop proposals for reducing economic insecurity on a long-term basis.
The Mental Health Foundation is leading and sponsoring this 4-nation study over four to six months. The project started before lockdown measures were implemented and the latest results are from the third wave of data collection. YouGov is using repeated cross-sectional surveys to gather data. This means that survey participants are different on each sampling occasion but taken from the same pool and representative of the UK.
The survey will cover around 20 topics, including the impact of the pandemic on people’s mental health and major sources of risk, such as unemployment, financial insecurity and loneliness.
The lead academic partner in the study is the Institute for Public Health at Cambridge University. It has provided Ethics Committee approval and offers opportunities for publication as peer-reviewed research. Swansea University is the lead partner on data analysis and interpretation. The other academic partners are Strathclyde University, and Queen’s University Belfast, which are supporting the interpretation of the data generated by the study and disseminating the study’s findings.
A diverse Citizens’ Jury is contributing qualitative information, personal insights, and comments on the data generated by the study. Jury members were selected to represent a broad range of human experience within the UK, including that of living or having lived with mental health problems.
The Foundation is producing regular briefings. Data from the study are also used to inform action by policymakers across the four nations of the UK.
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.