Current Level of Depression More Than Double What it Was Before the First Lockdown

New data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) provides an insight into the extent of the damage done to the nation’s mental health by a year of lockdowns. Most notably, the percentage of British adults who experienced some form of depression in the first months of 2021 was more than double that recorded before the first lockdown began. Here are the key findings:

Around one in five (21%) adults aged 16 years and over in Great Britain experienced some form of depression (indicated by moderate to severe depressive symptoms) in early 2021 (January 27th to March 7th), an increase from 19% in November 2020. Rates in early 2021 were more than double those observed before the coronavirus pandemic, where 10% of adults experienced some form of depression.

…Younger adults and people living with a child aged under 16 years had the largest increases in rates of depressive symptoms in early 2021, when compared with pre-pandemic levels.

For adults aged 16 to 39 years, rates in early 2021 were more than double (29%) when compared with before the pandemic (11%). In comparison, 10% of adults aged 70 years and over experienced some form of depression in early 2021, compared with 5% before the pandemic.

In early 2021, around one in three (35%) adults who reported being unable to afford an unexpected but necessary expense of £850 experienced some form of depression, compared with one in five (21%) adults before the pandemic. For adults who were able to afford this expense, 13% experienced depressive symptoms in early 2021, increasing from 5% before the pandemic…

After controlling for sex and other characteristics, when compared with those aged 70 years and over, younger adults continued to be more likely to experience some form of depression, with adults aged 16 to 29 years having the highest odds of all age groups.

At the same time, the quality of the treatment given to mental health patients has fallen because of the (lockdown-induced) difficulty – and, at times, impossibility – of in-person meetings. We recently covered a study that found that for some patients, video calls made matters worse.

The ONS report is worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The Mail has run a story about GPs’ “fears over a lockdown depression time bomb”.

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