New mental health research: Scottish adults with long-term conditions are more anxious about unlocking

Scottish adults who are living with physical or mental health conditions are significantly more anxious about the easing of lockdown restrictions, according to new findings from an ongoing study of the pandemic by the Mental Health Foundation and its university partners.

In a survey of 2,005 adults living in Scotland, of those respondents whose day-to-day activities are ‘very limited’ by long-term physical health problems, 61 per cent said they were ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ anxious about the ‘current lifting of restrictions’.   Similarly, among those with a current mental health condition that pre-dates the pandemic 62 per cent were ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ anxious.

Lone parents are also more likely to be ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ anxious about the easing of restrictions (60 per cent).

This compares to 45 per cent of the general population of adults in Scotland who said they were ‘fairly anxious’ or ‘very anxious’ about ‘the current lifting of restrictions’. 

Susan Solomon, is Senior Research Manager at Mental Health Foundation in Scotland and is leading the study.  Susan said: “Since March 2020, our research into the mental health impact of the pandemic has demonstrated that existing inequalities experienced by particular groups of people including those living with long term physical and mental health conditions, lone parents and young adults, have been exacerbated.   We know that people who identify within these groups are more likely than the general population to have lived with loneliness, anxiety, hopelessness, stress and, for some, feeling suicidal.

“We must ensure support is there for every person who needs it in the recovery phase.  That’s why the Mental Health Foundation is leading a £2 million Covid Response Programme, working with partners across the UK to offer practical programmes of support to people whose mental health has been most adversely impacted by the pandemic.  

“Additionally, we urge the Scottish Government to fully realise its Transition and Recovery Plan commitment to provide appropriate mental health support to people with long-term conditions whose mental health has been affected by the pandemic.  This was promised to be delivered by March 2021 and is important in the context of lifted restrictions.”    

The new data was gathered by Panelbase among Scottish adults (aged 18+) between 16 June – 2 July 2021, as part of the ongoing study of the pandemic.

Across all the 2,005 adults in Scotland surveyed, 39 per cent said they had worried over the previous fortnight about a new wave of infection in the next few months. Older adults were more likely to be worried, with 45 per cent of people aged 55+ saying this, along with 45 per cent of people with long-term physical health problems.

The research began shortly before the lockdown in March 2020 and is a partnership between the Mental Health Foundation and the universities of Cambridge, Swansea, De Montfort Leicester, Strathclyde and Queen’s Belfast.  

Professor Tine Van Bortel, from the University of Cambridge and De Montfort University Leicester, said: “The pandemic has clearly exacerbated existing inequalities and brought new ones to the fore. Unfortunately, the re-opening of society seems to be doing the same, with many more people needing extra support.  

“Unless we respond in a fair and comprehensive way, we risk ending up with a more unequal and divided society than ever, as we emerge from the pandemic. This will harm the people left behind and undermine the healthy functioning of society as a whole. The Government should act now, with a clear, sustainable and all-inclusive pandemic recovery plan that leaves no-one behind.” 

Total sample size in June-July 2021 was 2,005 Scottish adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 16th June 2nd July 2021. Each survey was carried out online by Panelbase. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all Scottish adults (aged 18+).


Notes to Editors

To arrange an interview with one of the experts working on our study of how the pandemic is affecting people’s mental health, or for further information, please email Claire Fleming  or call  07511 076 870  

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 also uses 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.    

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.  

It is also producing a growing library of information about looking after our mental health during the pandemic.  In addition, the Foundation is planning work in England, Scotland and Wales, to give emotional support to people who have been worst-affected by the pandemic.

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.