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Neuropsychology

Depression and anxiety ‘increased significantly during lockdown’

A new report highlights the mental health impact during the first lockdown, and highlights the need for more interventions

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The first COVID-19 lockdown in the UK had a profound effect in increasing the prevalence of anxiety and depression among the general population, according to a new study.

A detailed systematic review suggests that depression and anxiety levels in the UK jumped markedly as a consequence of restrictions and isolation during the first lockdown, which began on March 23, 2020. 

Whereas prevalence for diagnosed depression pre-pandemic was around four per cent of the population, this rose to 32 per cent following lockdown – a jump of nearly 28 per cent. 

Diagnosed cases of anxiety, which pre-pandemic were around per cent, increased to 31 per cent, a jump of over 26 per cent.

In response, the researchers from the Addiction & Mental Health Group (AIM) at the University of Bath are calling for greater evidence-based psychological interventions, like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

They say it is vital that policymakers and mental health services double their efforts to monitor mental health and provide interventions to support those in need.

The research team, who reviewed data from 14 separate studies involving 46,158 participants, follows other pieces of research to highlight that heightened levels of depression and anxiety have manifested with people increasingly struggling to think clearly or to sleep.

They say some of the possible causes correlate to increased social isolation, uncertainty about the state of the world, and being under a constant perceived threat of illness or death. 

Lead researcher, Dr Gemma Taylor from the University of Bath, explained: “We all know the dramatic toll lockdown had on our lives, and two years on it’s a moment to pause and reflect on what some of the long-standing effects this period has had our mental health.

“Our study shows a sharp rise in depression and anxiety as a result of lockdown. These are challenges which cannot be undone overnight. 

“Tackling them will require significantly greater resources to ensure those who need it can access psychological support. Psychological support is not cheap, and services have notoriously been underfunded.

“Whilst there is good news for people’s mental health in regard to vaccination rates and the return to some degree of normality in the UK, we need to be mindful of these possible lasting mental health effects that lockdown had on many of us.”

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