Wave 13 summary: 9 to 15 November 2021

25th Nov 2021

This content mentions suicide or suicidal thoughts and anxiety. Please read with care. There are details of where to find help at the bottom of this page.

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 fell slowly and steadily, from 73% in April 2020 to 60% in September
    • Between September and November 2021, there was a slight increase the percentage of people who felt that they were coping well (63%)
  • However, those with a pre-existing mental health condition were less likely than UK adults, in general, to be coping well (58%)
  • There was a large increase in the number of adults with a long-term physical health condition reporting they were coping well between September and November 2021 (50% to 60%)
    • However, 22% are still reporting that they are not coping well with the stress of the pandemic
Wave 13 - stress graph

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/July 2021. Levels began to rise again (35% in September) before dropping back slightly to 33% in November
  • Amongst those with a long-term physical health condition, anxiety and worry have not declined as quickly, with 40% still feeling anxious in November 2021
  • Those with a pre-existing mental health diagnosis are also still recording higher levels of anxiety and worry (47%)
  • Women are more likely to be more anxious than men (39% vs 27%)
Wave 13 - anxious or worried graph
  • Some people are still concerned about restrictions being lifted with 42% of the population anxious
    • This anxiety slightly increases amongst those with a long-term condition (55% anxious) and those with a pre-existing mental health condition (55% anxious)
Wave 13 - how anxious are you graph
  • Being in crowded places is the biggest reported source of anxiety amongst those who are anxious about restrictions lifting (75%) and the proportion affected increases with age (54% of 18 to 24 year olds; 65% of 34 to 45 year olds; 85% of the over 55s). Commuting on public transport is the next most common source of anxiety (37%)
Wave 13 - anxious graph

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:

  • Almost a third of people (31%) report mixed feelings about the lifting of lockdown
  • More than a quarter of people were happy to stay at home (29%)
  • Very few are excited by the prospect of being in the same workspace as colleagues or fellow students (7%)
  • 11% of people feel that the current uncertainty had negatively affected their mental wellbeing, rising to 17% of people with a long-term health condition and 23% of people with a pre-existing mental health diagnosis

Over 1 in 3 people (35%) of the UK population is worried about the possibility of another wave, with even higher reporting among those with long-term conditions (42%) and people with pre-existing mental health conditions (43%)

Wave 13 - feelings lifting restrictions graph

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 support victims of domestic abuse (47%), to set out a clear vision going forward (46%), and to provide a statutory living wage (46%) as well as establishing a clear single source of public health information (45%) and a programme to support people to find and to progress in employment (41%)

Wave 13 - 'definitely be done' graph (top 5)

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: 

Wave 13 - 'definitely be done' graph (% ranked)

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
    • In November, this percentage dropped slightly from 14% in September to 12%
  • The prevalence of suicidal thoughts and feelings has been consistently higher, across the pandemic, among some more vulnerable groups
    • Figures for November 2021 show that suicidal thoughts and feelings were especially common among people with a pre-existing mental health condition (33%), young people aged 18 to 24 (34%), and those with a long-term physical health condition (21%)
Wave 13 - suicidal thoughts graph

If you are feeling like ending your life or feel unable to keep yourself safe, please call 999 or go to A&E and ask for the contact of the nearest crisis resolution team. These are teams of mental health care professionals who work with people in severe distress. If you feel affected by the content you have read, please see our get help page for support.

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