Wave 9: pre-Christmas 2020

Emotional and mental wellbeing struggles continue

During the festive season similar proportions of people are struggling with their mental health compared to those of late November. Specifically, as of the fourth week in December:
 
• Over half (54%) of the adult UK population have felt anxious or worried in the previous two weeks because of the pandemic. Women (63%), full time students (66%), people who are unemployed (60%) and those who have a pre-existing mental health condition (69%) were population groups who appeared to be feeling more anxious or worried too. 
• Almost a quarter of people (23%) reported feeling lonely in the previous two weeks.
• Feelings of loneliness were higher in younger people too, with 37% and 31% of people aged 18-24 and 25-34 respectively, which has been consistently higher across all waves than the general population.
• Loneliness levels were also higher in people who are unemployed (35%), full time students (39%), single parents (30%), and people with a pre-existing mental health condition (36%). 
• Like Wave 8 (late Nov), seeing family freely (26%) or seeing friends freely (15%) were highlighted as ways that would help alleviate people’s feelings of loneliness. 
• Just over one in five (22%) of the UK adult population reported feeling hopeless and over half (54%) reported feeling frustrated in the last two weeks.
 

People are resilient but the longer the pandemic goes on, the more this resilience is tested 

Generally, 63% of people feel that they are coping with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic-related stress very well or fairly well, however there has been a slow decline in people coping with the COVID-19 restrictions and the impact this has on their mental health. Specifically, as of late December:

• Of those who reported not coping with this stress well (19% overall), those who have pre-existing mental health condition(s) or full-time students were less likely to be coping very well or not at all well (35% and 34% respectively) as are those who are unemployed (29%).
• Half (50%) of UK adults reported that they feel worried about being able to cope with the uncertainty of the pandemic. 
• Whilst a quarter (26%) were worried about being able to cope with self-isolation
 
 
What is helping people cope with the stress of the pandemic:  
 
• For 53% of the adult UK population, going for a walk outside helped them cope with the stress of the pandemic in the last two weeks. This has been the top method of coping throughout the study’s nine waves. 
• Being able to visit green spaces helped for 40% of the population. 
• Contacting family (44%) and friends (40%) also helped people cope with the stress of the pandemic. 
• Contacting friends was the top coping method for people aged 18-24 (43%), which corresponds with our adolescent study where contacting friends has been the most popular coping method for stress across the two waves.
• Contacting friends was also the top coping method for full time students (48%).
• Contacting family (61%) was the top coping method for those over 70 years old, followed by going for a walk (60%). 
• Limiting exposure to COVID-19 news and maintaining a healthy lifestyle (e.g. balanced diet, enough sleep, exercise etc.) were also cited as popular coping methods to cope with the stress of COVID-19. 
• However, these coping methods were less popular than in late November. For instance, in this wave 27% stated limiting exposure to COVID-19 news helped them cope compared to 40% in wave eight and 29% in this wave said maintaining a healthy lifestyle helped them cope compared to 44% in wave eight.
 
However, less helpful coping strategies have risen since late November. Specifically, as of December:
 
• 22% of the population said they were drinking more alcohol as a way of coping with the stress of the pandemic in the last two weeks. This is compared to 18% in wave eight. 
• The amount who stated they had eaten too much as a way of coping with the stress of the pandemic had risen slightly in this wave to 36%.
• Those who stated they had more often eaten too little as a way of coping was the same as in wave eight at 10% of respondents. 

People are worried and concerned 

The UK population continues to feel uncertain, concerned and feelings of worry are rife:
 
• Over half (54%) are worried about becoming ill with COVID-19 and almost two thirds (64%) are worried about passing on COVID-19 if they become sick with the virus.
• Nearly half (46%) are worried about the mental health of their child(ren) and how this is being impacted by the pandemic.  
• Three in ten (29%) are worried about making their own existing mental health difficulties worse.
• A quarter (25%) are worried about looking after their child(ren) in case they get sick.
• Three in ten (29%) have financial concerns.
• Over half (57%) are worried about being separated from their family and friends. 

People anticipate a negative long-term impact of the pandemic on their future and the future of others

Feelings of uncertainty about the future have risen since late November. Specifically, as of December:
 
• Over half (56%) of UK adults think that their future is going to be worse as a result of the pandemic. 
• Two thirds (66%) of UK adults think that that the future of others their age is going to be worse as a results of the pandemic. 
• Please refer to the graphs below to explore the trends of how adults feel about the future from wave eight to this wave. 
• The proportion of adults who think that  their own future will be worse are higher for people aged 18-24 (61%), those with pre-existing mental health conditions (62%) and full-time students (67%).

Suicidal thoughts

• The proportion of people who had experienced suicidal thoughts or feelings in the previous two weeks had slightly decreased from wave eight to wave nine from 13% to 12%. 
• Please refer to the graph below to explore the trend of people experiencing suicidal ideation from wave two to this wave. 
• Figures were highest for people with a pre-existing mental health condition (30%), people who are unemployed (26%), people aged 18-24 (22%) and full-time students (22%).
• 8% who said they experienced these thoughts said they experienced them once or more a day or more often.
• 7% of people aged 18-24 reported that they had deliberately hurt themselves, which was a slight decrease from the earlier wave eight, but still three times greater than across all UK adults (2%).
• Full-time students (73%) and those with pre-existing mental health conditions (70%) were the most worried about the future of others of a similar age to them.
 
 
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 4,277 UK adults 18+. Fieldwork was undertaken between 21st and the 23rd December 2020.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).