• A POSTnote on mental health impacts of COVID-19 will summarise the latest findings from research on how COVID-19 has affected the mental health of the UK population.
  • It will highlight which groups are vulnerable and their mental health outcomes.
  • It will also discuss policy approaches to protect mental health and how health services can adapt to improve outcomes for those affected.
  • Provisional start date: September 2020. To contribute expertise, literature or as an external reviewer, please contact Dr Sarah Bunn. View our guidance for expert contributors.

During a pandemic, mental health can be compromised by fear of the disease as well as indirectly through public health measures to contain it. Such interventions, such as social distancing, quarantine and isolation; can introduce further strain, through changes in routines, financial hardship and separation from loved ones. Pandemics can also make it harder to maintain activities that benefit mental well-being and to access mental health services.

Research on the COVID-19 outbreak and previous pandemics indicates both short- and long-term mental health effects. According to the Office for National Statistics, well-being levels during the COVID-19 pandemic are at their worst since national measures were introduced in 2010. Evidence suggests that reported levels of depression, anxiety and loneliness have been significantly higher during the UK lockdown. Expert opinion and commentary also suggest that the COVID-19 outbreak may also have consequences for those with existing mental health conditions, particularly obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD), addictive behaviours and eating disorders. Some people may be particularly susceptible to mental health issues, notably those who experience greater social isolation, children, individuals with pre-existing mental health issues, people with communication difficulties and healthcare workers. Existing societal inequalities may exacerbate mental health issues. For example, disrupted food availability and job insecurity can increase mental strain on low-income families. Restrictions on leaving the house may be more challenging for those in poor or unstable housing conditions.

A POSTnote on this topic will summarise the latest findings from research on how COVID-19 has affected the mental health of the UK population, highlight which groups are vulnerable and their mental health outcomes. It will also discuss policy approaches to protect mental health and how health services can adapt to improve outcomes for those affected.