Depression has doubled during lockdown


It won’t come as a surprise to learn that mental health has taken a significant downward over lockdown. Social isolation, fear, physical disease - all these things came together to create the perfect environment for mental illness to thrive.

Now a new nationwide survey by the Office of National Statistics has revealed the true impact coronavirus has had on the UK’s mental health. Coronavirus and depression in adults looks at the impact the pandemic had on adults in the UK by June 2020. It found that almost one in five adults experienced some kind of depression by that month - double the number during the 12 months preceding.

Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the UK, affecting different people in different ways. For some it can be a case of feeling unhappy and tearful while, for others, it can be truly devastating. Depressive symptoms worsened overall for one in eight adults, while a whopping 84.9% of people living with depression found themselves spiralling into anxiety or stress as a result of the situation.

Adults aged 16-39 were the most likely group to experience some form of depression during the pandemic, with one in three 16-39-year-olds experiencing moderate to severe depressing symptoms during this time. Prior to the pandemic, that figure sat at one in nine - a tripling of cases.

Women were more like to experience depression than men, with almost a quarter of women experiencing moderate to severe symptoms, while people who found themselves unable to afford unexpected expenses and those living with disabilities were also wildly at risk. Unemployment was also a big factor, with those out of work experiencing higher rates of depression than those in work or in retirement.

Of course, it’s not just those who already live with depression that have been affected. 80% of the public said that the pandemic had affected their overall well-being, whether that was feeling lonely, stressed, anxious or putting a strain on personal relationships.

As society tries to return to some kind of normal while bracing for the possibility of a second wave, it’s really important that we all have a mental health contingency plan in place. We know what to do if we think we’re coming down with symptoms of coronavirus but too few of us know what to do in the event of a depressive spell.

Creating a mental health first aid plan

We all have contingency plans for physical illness. We call the GP if we’re sick or go to A&E if critical; we have a first aid kit for physical injuries. If a second wave does it, there’s plenty of advice on which symptoms to watch out for and where to get tested (ring 119 if you’re in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, or 0300 303 2713 if you’re in Scotland) but there’s not much on how to protect our mental health.

To give yourself the best possible shot at staying mentally healthy through whatever developments the pandemic throws our way, have a plan in place. That might include:

  • Having a list of helplines* ready to access
  • Electing a person to be your first aid phone call (be sure to agree it with them beforehand)
  • Writing out who you can talk to about your mental health (friends, family, professionals)
  • Choosing what your coping mechanisms are (exercise, colouring, baking, sleeping, listening to podcasts etc)
  • Ensuring you have medication if you need it (that might be beta-blockers for panic attacks, or enough of your sertraline prescription to see out another lockdown)
  • Writing out a self-care routine, focussing on good quality sleep, food, and downtime
  • Making sure that you call your GP or therapist to discuss how you can access help if you can’t leave the house

*Samaritans: 116 123

Anxiety UK: 03444 775 774

CALM: 0800 58 58 58

Information contained in this Articles page has been written by talkhealth based on available medical evidence. The content however should never be considered a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek medical advice before changing your treatment routine. talkhealth does not endorse any specific products, brands or treatments.

Information written by the talkhealth team

Last revised: 19 August 2020
Next review: 19 August 2023