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Mental Health Poor for 11 Percent of U.K. Adults During COVID-19

WEDNESDAY, May 12, 2021 -- About 11 percent of U.K. adults experienced deteriorating or consistently poor mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study published online May 6 in The Lancet Psychiatry.

Matthias Pierce, Ph.D., from the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, and colleagues tracked average mental health during the pandemic, characterized distinct mental health trajectories, and identified predictors of deterioration. The 12-item General Health Questionnaire was used to assess mental health in 19,763 adults.

The researchers observed a deterioration in average population mental health with onset of the pandemic, which did not begin improving until July 2020. Five distinct mental health trajectories were identified up to October 2020. Most participants had consistently good or very good mental health (39.3 and 37.5 percent, respectively). Twelve percent comprised a recovery group, who initially experienced a decline in mental health followed by improvement to prepandemic levels by October. For 7.0 percent, there was a steady deterioration in mental health during the pandemic, and for 4.1 percent, mental health declined initially and remained very poor throughout. The likelihood of having preexisting mental or physical ill health, living in deprived neighborhoods, and being non-White was increased for these two groups. Subsequent deterioration in mental health was predicted by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 infection, local lockdown, and financial difficulties.

"Socioeconomic policies should be central to postpandemic recovery programs to address the mental health effects seen in low-income communities and the further likely effects of school closures, financial hardship, job insecurity, and local restrictions," the authors write.

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