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Unlocking anxiety higher among millions with health conditions

UK adults who have physical and mental health conditions are significantly more anxious about the easing of lockdown restrictions, according to new findings from an ongoing study of the pandemic by the Mental Health Foundation and its university partners.

Among a nationally representative sample of 4,004 UK adults surveyed in late June, 30 per cent said they were ‘not very anxious’ about ‘the current lifting of restrictions’ and 25 per cent ‘not at all anxious’. One third (33 per cent) said they were ‘fairly anxious’ while eight per cent were ‘very anxious’.

However, worry about the unlocking was significantly more common among groups of people with physical or emotional health conditions, who together number millions.

Among those whose day-to-day activities are ‘very limited’ by long-term physical health problems, 59 per cent said they were ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ anxious.

And among those with a current mental health condition that pre-dates the pandemic, 55 per cent were ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ anxious. Also more likely to be ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ anxious about the easing of restrictions were people who are unemployed and lone parents (both 48 per cent).

Across all the 4,004 adults surveyed, 40 per cent said they had worried over the previous fortnight about a new wave of infection in the next few months. Older adults were especially likely to be worried, with 48 per cent of retired people saying this, and 50 per cent of people with long-term physical health problems.

The new data were gathered by Panelbase among UK adults (aged 18+) between June 18 – July 2, as part of the ongoing study of the pandemic.

The research began shortly before the lockdown in March 2020 and is a partnership between the Mental Health Foundation and the universities of Cambridge, Swansea, De Montfort Leicester, Strathclyde and Queen’s Belfast.  

person crying beside bed

Mark Rowland, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said: ‘Yet again, our research shows that the pandemic has been far more emotionally difficult for some people than others.

‘Often, those worst affected were disadvantaged even before Covid-19, for instance by living in poverty or with existing poor health, experiencing discrimination, or all of these.

‘Since the pandemic began, our study has identified particular groups, numbering millions of people – who are more likely than other adults to have lived with loneliness, anxiety, hopelessness, stress and, for some, feeling suicidal.

‘These groups include people with long-term physical or mental health conditions, young adults and lone parents. We must ensure support is there for them in the recovery phase.

‘Our Covid Response programme has been established to respond to this need, with our collaborating partners. And we want governments across the UK to follow our lead to invest in preventative work on a national scale for those who need it most.’

Professor Tine Van Bortel, from the University of Cambridge and De Montfort University Leicester, said: ‘The pandemic has clearly exacerbated existing inequalities and brought new ones to the fore. Unfortunately, the re-opening of society seems to be doing the same, with many more people needing extra support.

‘Unless we respond in a fair and comprehensive way, we risk ending up with a more unequal and divided society than ever, as we emerge from the pandemic. This will harm the people left behind and undermine the healthy functioning of society as a whole. The Government should act now, with a clear, sustainable and all-inclusive pandemic recovery plan that leaves no-one behind.’

Photo Credit – Claudia Wolff

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