The level of mental distress of the British increased during the quarantine

According to a longitudinal cohort study level of mental distress of residents of great Britain increased during quarantine because of pandemic coronavirus. The most vulnerable groups were young people, women and those living with children. Article published in the journal The Lancet.

Pandemic COVID-19 affected even those who were not infected with coronavirus. Around the world, people remain in isolation, losing a job, changing your lifestyle, worry for yourself and your loved ones. Scientists suggest that the situation has adversely affected the mental health of the people — thus, the results of the studyin America in April 2020, the stress level was higher than in 2018. However, large-scale studies with reliable indicators of mental status and the ability to compare the results with the dynamics before the pandemic has not yet appeared.

Researchers from Britain under the leadership of Sally McManus (McManus Sally) from the National centre for social research and Katherine Abel (Kathryn Abel) from the University of Manchester analyzed data from a longitudinal cohort study of British households. In this project in 2009 involved more than 40 thousand families.

In the UK the quarantine measures were imposed on 23 March 2020, and in April members of the families who participated in the previous two waves of a longitudinal project, were invited to participate in an online survey. Consenting volunteers aged over 16 years (more than 15 thousand people) between 15 and 30 April filled out a General health questionnaire designed for the diagnosis of mental health. The results were compared with data from three previous waves of the study, which was carried out in the years 2014-2019 (the comparison group included about 53 thousand people).

For a start, the researchers assessed the absolute values of the survey results, which reflect the level of mental distress. In April 2020 the figure was higher in women than in men, young people (16-24 years) than in older (over 70 years), Asians than white British people and residents of large cities (especially London).

Socio-economic and social indicators (determined by the results of previous waves of the study) were also associated with mental discomfort. The level of stress was higher in people with low income and the unemployed, the single participants (not living with partner), those who live with young children, and people with various diseases.

27 percent of participants and 44 percent of young women in April, the result of the questionnaire exceeded the threshold for a clinically significant level of mental distress. This is not equivalent to a clinical diagnosis (not to say that a quarter of the UK population needs psychiatric help), but it is a troubling sign — in 2018, the threshold is exceeded answers 18 percent of respondents and 32 percent of young women.

Compared to previous years, in 2020 the level of mental distress was higher; the point is that it was more than could be expected based on the trend of recent years. Statistically significant level of mental discomfort has increased in young people (p < 0.0001), in women (but not men; p < 0.0001), and those living with children (especially preschool age; p = 0.0003). Interestingly, compared with the trend from previous years the unemployed did not feel sound less, but working people, the stress intensified. Perhaps this is due to the fear of losing their jobs, the need to work from home or at risk of infection at work.

The authors note that the results of the survey could affect his form in previous years, participants filled out a form in the presence of the interviewer, and during a pandemic, responses were recorded online. In addition, the study for obvious reasons not in the control group, because there are no people, who would pandemic has not affected. However, the speed and force of change gives scientists reason to believe the virus is the main cause of the deteriorating mental health of the British.

And there is evidence of direct influence of the coronavirus in the human brain: in women with COVID-19 in the early stage of the disease has changed the signal from the cortex — perhaps this explains some of the symptoms of the disease.

Alice Bahareva

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