Coping with the pandemic: New mental health research reveals how Scottish adults are managing stress

New research from the Mental Health Foundation and collaborating universities reveals how Scottish adults are managing stress during the pandemic.

  • Six in ten (61 per cent) of Scottish adults who had experienced stress because of the pandemic said walking helped them cope   
  • Half (51 per cent) of Scottish adults who had experienced stress because of the pandemic said contacting family (e.g. by phone, video chat, etc.) had helped them cope 
  • Half (49 per cent) of Scottish adults who had experienced stress because of the pandemic said contacting friends (e.g. by phone, video chat, etc.) had helped them cope  
  • Almost half (48 per cent) of Scottish adults who had experienced stress because of the pandemic said visiting green spaces, such as parks, helped them cope  
  • More than eight in ten (84 per cent) of Scottish adults have experienced stress because of the pandemic 
Walking outside, contacting family and friends and visiting green spaces such as parks are considered by Scottish adults as the most helpful ways to cope with stress about the pandemic, according to new research by the Mental Health Foundation and collaborating universities.  
 
Going out for a walk is most people’s favourite coping strategy, with six in ten (61 per cent) who have felt stressed saying they found it helpful.  
 
Keeping in contact with family members (51 per cent) and friends (49 per cent) were named as the next most helpful ways of managing, among those who have felt stressed about the pandemic.   
 
Being able to visit parks and other green spaces is the fourth most popular coping mechanism, mentioned as helpful by almost half (48 per cent) of those who have experienced stress.  
 
The findings highlight factors that can help prevent mental health problems and are published in the week of World Mental Health Day (Saturday 10th October).  
 
Lee Knifton, Mental Health Foundation, Director for Scotland and Northern Ireland, said: “The good news here is that at a very difficult time for many of us, millions of people across Scotland and the UK are using effective ways to improve their wellbeing.  
 
“Going out for a walk, being in contact with family and friends and visiting green spaces are great ways for us all to protect our mental health and prevent problems. Wider research evidence, as well as our latest survey findings, make this very clear.  
 
“Our new findings matter for policy, which can make it easier or harder for people to cope at a time that is stressful for millions of us.  
 
“We welcome the Scottish Government’s intention to publish a transition and recovery plan, with a mental health in all policies approach. However, we believe that the plan should be extended to other government departments such as justice and broader economic policy. Also, the plan must be backed by an ambitious financial package to achieve maximum impact and ensure credibility. The Scottish Government should also protect and facilitate people’s access to nature and ensure the continued inclusion of a period of daily physical activity when deciding on future lockdown restrictions.” 
“At a time of local restrictions, it’s more important than ever that local authorities invest in improving our neighbourhoods and leisure areas, to create safe, green spaces for outdoor activities.”  
 
The new research is part of the Coronavirus: Mental Health in the Pandemic study by the Mental Health Foundation, in partnership with the universities of Cambridge, Swansea, Strathclyde, Queen’s Belfast and de Montfort.   
 
The latest findings are from a YouGov survey done 27th August - 3rd September 2020, among a nationally representative sample of 2,049 Scottish adults. It asked participants what had helped them cope in the previous two weeks.  
 
The survey also found that nearly four in ten people (38 per cent) who had experienced stress because of the pandemic said that maintaining a healthy lifestyle, such as sleeping well and eating healthily, had helped them cope.  
 
Four in ten people (41 per cent) said that doing a hobby was helpful.  
 
Overall, just over eight in ten (84 per cent) of Scottish adults surveyed said they had experienced stress because of the pandemic.  
 
Professor Tine Van Bortel, from the University of Cambridge and De Montfort University Leicester, said: “There’s a growing body of strong research evidence about the determinants of our health and wellbeing. That is replicated by our findings. Access to nature and safe green spaces, positive social contacts, healthy lifestyles and meaningful activities are all crucial, for us to function well.” 
 
Today the Foundation and its university partners publish a new briefing about how individuals, communities and nations cope with difficult experiences including the pandemic. For advance media copies of the briefing, please contact our press office.  
 
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,049 Scottish adults 18+. Fieldwork was undertaken between 27th August - 3rd September 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all Scottish adults (aged 18+). 
 
Notes to editors: 
Interviews with expert spokespeople are available on request.  
 
For further information and interview requests contact Muireann Kirby in the Mental Health Foundation Press Office on 07761274159 or at [email protected] or [email protected]  
 
About the study:  
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 always representative of the UK population. The survey covers approximately 20 topics, including the pandemic’s impact on mental health and the key drivers of risk. The lead academic partner is the University of Cambridge. The other academic partners are Swansea University, Strathclyde University, Queen’s University Belfast, and De Montfort University Leicester. Ethical approval has been obtained from the Cambridge Psychology Research Ethics Committee. 
 
The study is also using focus groups to gather qualitative information. We produce regular briefings. Our data can be used to inform policy action. We welcome suggestions for briefing topics that would be interesting and important to inform action.  
 
All calculations about the numbers of people affected were done by the Mental Health Foundation.  
 
Professor Tine Van Bortel is Professor of Global Health at De Montfort University Leicester and Principal Investigator in Public Mental Health & Wellbeing at the University of Cambridge. 
 
About 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.