The Covid-19 pandemic is taking its toll on our mental health, with the ONS reporting that rates of depression have doubled

It’s been an incredibly tough year, with many of us facing challenges we had never conceived that we would face. It’s no wonder that our mental health would be affected by this experience, but it’s only now that we’re beginning to understand the extent of the damage.

Findings from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have uncovered that around one in five (21%) adults have experienced some form of depression in early 2021 (January to March), which has jumped up from 19% in November 2020, and more than doubled from the rates prior to the pandemic: 10%.

In this period of 2021, the ONS also found that younger adults and women were more likely to experience some form of depression, discovering that 43% of women aged 16 to 29 years old reported depressive symptoms compared with 26% of men of the same age.

In addition, disabled and clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) adults were also more likely to experience depression than non-disabled and non-CEV adults, with the same being found when comparing those who rent their homes against those who own their homes outright.

Considering the findings, Jo Bibby, Director of Health at the Health Foundation, believes they forwarn a growing mental health crisis in the UK.

“Particularly concerning is that those in more precarious economic positions or burdened by existing inequalities – young people, women, clinically vulnerable adults, disabled people and those living in the most deprived areas of England have been disproportionately affected,” she adds. “This suggests that inequalities in our society have worsened as a result of the pandemic.”

Woman sitting on sofa

It’s an assessment that is echoed by Dr Marianne Trent, a clinical psychologist at Good Thinking Psychological Services.

“Once again, young adults, whose jobs were often the first to go as many work in retail or hospitality, have been the hardest hit emotionally,” she explains.

“A normal part of adolescence and young adulthood is social interaction with peers. The pandemic and associated lockdowns have made it very difficult for this to happen and as such it’s understandable that young people’s moods have dipped. For 43% of young women to have experienced some form of depression is a frightening statistic.

“We are social beings and as such we often get a great deal of our self-soothing from being around others or doing activities outside the home such as having meals out, visiting the cinema or the gym. With this being impossible for much of the past year, anxiety and depression will understandably rise.”

This, in combination with the finding that diagnoses by GPs fell by almost a quarter, is – as Jo Bibby understands it – a cause for concern.

“Our Covid-19 impact inquiry has found that reduced access to care will have long-term implications on mental health and put even greater pressure on health services,” she says. “These worrying findings show how important it is for government to rapidly address the vast consequences of the pandemic, to protect the long-term impacts on the nation’s health.”

Currently, The Health Foundation’s COVID-19 impact inquiry is investigating the impact that the pandemic has had on health and health inequalities across the UK. Due to be completed in July, it is hoped that the report will provide important analysis for the Government, with solutions on how we move forward.

For now, if you are struggling with feelings of depression, know that there are options. You can speak to your GP, or reach out to a mental health professional. Depression UK also offer forums and a pen-friend scheme, along with more information, on their website.

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