New research has demonstrated that the pandemic has led to a significant increase in the number of mental health issues affecting people in the United Kingdom.

Mental health issues significantly increased in the U.K. during lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a new study has suggested.

Furthermore, the study identifies some of the mediating factors that affected people’s ability to cope with the pandemic. It also highlights the particular effect that the pandemic had on the people whom the U.K. government identified as vulnerable.

The research, which appears in the journal American Psychologist, could help inform future mental health strategies for dealing with the psychological consequences of the pandemic.

Mental health during lockdown

COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on people’s physical health. Across the world, hundreds of thousands of people have died, and many people have experienced persistent symptoms long after leaving the hospital.

However, as well as causing major physical health issues, the pandemic has also been taking a toll on people’s mental health.

Earlier this year, researchers looking at the effects of past quarantines on mental health also sought feedback from the general population and people with preexisting mental health issues on their experiences during the current pandemic. The team concluded that a significant negative effect is an expected consequence of the various lockdowns that governments have implemented around the world.

Further research from China found that 35% of people experienced mental distress during the first month of the COVID-19 outbreak and that these levels continued as the disease spread over the coming months.

A global pandemic is clearly a distressing event. People react to distressing events in different ways, with some reactions having a more detrimental effect than others on a person’s quality of life.

In the present study, the authors wanted to identify the general level of psychological distress that people experienced during the pandemic and the resulting lockdown in the U.K., as well as the factors that meant that some people experienced more distress than others.

The authors also looked specifically at people whom the U.K. government classed as vulnerable to COVID-19. This group included people with underlying health conditions, such as chronic respiratory disease, those aged 70 years or over, individuals with a weakened immune system, and pregnant women.

According to the lead author of the study, Dr. Hannah Rettie from the University of Bath’s Department of Psychology:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused global uncertainty, which has had a direct, detrimental effect on so many people across the U.K. and around the world. People have been unsure when they would see relatives again, job security has been rocked, there is an increased threat to many people’s health, and government guidance is continuously changing, leading to much uncertainty and anxiety.”

“What our research focused in on is how some individuals have struggled to tolerate and adapt to these uncertainties — much more so than in normal times,” continues Dr. Rettie.

“These results have important implications as we move to help people psychologically distressed by these challenging times in the weeks, months, and years ahead.”

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