Wave 12 summary: 16 September 2021

25th Nov 2021

UK adults are becoming less able to cope with stress

Since the first lockdown in March 2020, UK adults, in general, have slowly become less able to cope with the stress of the pandemic:

  • The proportion of people reporting they were coping well has fallen slowly and steadily, from 73% in April 2020 to 60% in September 2021
  • Those with a pre-existing mental health condition were less likely than UK adults, in general, to be coping well (56%)
  • Nearly a third of those with a long-term physical health condition (32%) are still reporting that they are not coping well with the stress of the pandemic
COVID Research (Wave 12)

Anxiety and worry due to the pandemic continues to decline in the general population

Anxiety and worry due to the pandemic continue to decline significantly amongst the general population but still record higher levels amongst vulnerable groups:

  • Levels fell from 62% in March 2020 to 33% in June and July 2021. However, this has begun to rise slightly again (35% in September 2021)
  • Amongst those with a long-term physical health condition, anxiety and worry have not declined as quickly, with 42% still feeling anxious in September 2021, compared to 35% of the general population
  • Those with a pre-existing mental health diagnosis are also still recording higher levels of anxiety and worry (51%
  • Women are more likely to be more anxious than men (41% vs 28%)
COVID Research (Wave 12)

Some are still concerned about the lifting of restrictions

  • Some people are still concerned about restrictions being lifted with 44% of the population anxious
  • This anxiety increases amongst those with a long-term condition (64% anxious) and those with a pre-existing mental health condition (59% anxious)


COVID Research (Wave 12)

Crowded places are the biggest source of anxiety

  • Being in crowded places is the biggest reported source of anxiety amongst those who are anxious about restrictions lifting (74%) and the proportion affected increases with age (56% of 18 to 24 year olds; 69% of 34 to 45 year olds; 85% of the over 55s)
  • Commuting on public transport is the next most common source of anxiety (35%)
COVID Research (Wave 12)

There are mixed feelings about returning to pre-pandemic lifestyles

Easing of restrictions and returning to previous activities that have not been possible during lockdowns are prompting mixed feelings:

  • A third of people (33%) report mixed feelings about the lifting of lockdown
  • More than a quarter of people were happy to stay at home (28%)
  • Very few are excited by the prospect of being in the same workspace as colleagues or fellow students (6%)
COVID Research (Wave 12)

Government priorities as restrictions ease

When asked what could be done by the government to benefit and improve the nation’s mental health as restrictions ease and life starts to return to normal, the public is looking to the government to set out a clear vision going forward (49%), support victims of domestic abuse, and to tackle misinformation about COVID-19 (45%).

COVID Research (Wave 12)

Respondents ranked government policies by importance

Respondents were then asked to rank up to three policies in order of importance. The pattern of results was similar but ‘retaining the £20 weekly increase in payments for those claiming Universal Credit’ moved into the top five most popular potential policies.

COVID Research (Wave 12)

Suicidal thoughts

Our study has also shown that suicidal thoughts have become more prevalent across the year and that they are increasingly common amongst our most vulnerable groups, despite the easing of restrictions:

  • Across the UK population, 8% of adults surveyed in April 2020 said they had had thoughts and feelings about suicide during the previous two weeks
    • This is now at its highest level since the pandemic began at 14%, in September 2021
  • The prevalence of suicidal thoughts and feelings has been consistently higher, across the pandemic, among some more vulnerable groups:
    • Figures for September 2021 show that suicidal thoughts and feelings were especially common among people with a pre-existing mental health condition (37%), young people aged 18 to 24 (28%), and those with a long-term physical health condition (36%)
COVID Research (Wave 12)
Please note:

Total sample size in March 2020 was 2126 UK adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 17 to 18 March 2020. Total sample size in September 2021 was 4050 UK adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 9 to 16 September 2021. Each survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

Was this content useful?