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Journal Article

The mental health impact of COVID-19 and lockdown-related stressors among adults in the UK


Publication date

07 Dec 2020


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic in the UK and subsequent lockdown may have affected the mental health of the population. This study examines whether there was an increase in the prevalence and incidence of Common Mental Disorders (CMD) in the UK adult population during the first months of lockdown and whether changes in CMD were associated with stressors related to the pandemic and lockdown.
Methods: Longitudinal data from the UK Household Longitudinal Study waves 10-11: 2019-2020 and waves 1 to 4 of the COVID-19 monthly surveys in April (n=17,761) to July 2020 (n=13,754), a representative sample of UK adult population, were analysed. CMD was measured using the GHQ-12 (cut off >2). Changes in CMD were analysed in relation to COVID-19 and social stressors.
Results: Around 29% of adults without CMD less than a year earlier had a CMD in April 2020. However, by July 2020, monthly incidence of CMD had reduced to 9%. Most employment, financial and psychological “shocks” were at their highest levels in April and reduced steadily in later months. Despite the lifting of some lockdown conditions by July, stressors related to loneliness, unemployment, financial problems and domestic work continued to influence CMD.
Conclusion: Some COVID-19 policy responses such as furloughing may have been effective in mitigating the increase in CMD for some groups of employees. Despite some reduction in levels of pandemic and lockdown related stressors by the middle of 2020, loneliness and financial stressors remained key determinants of incidence in CMD among the UK adult population.

Published in

Psychological Medicine





Psychology, Households, Public Policy, Well Being, Health, and Covid 19


Online Early; Open Access; This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.; © The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press.

Related publications

  1. The mental health impact of COVID-19 and pandemic related stressors among adults in the UK

    Tarani Chandola, Meena Kumari, Cara L. Booker, et al.

    1. Psychology
    2. Households
    3. Public Policy
    4. Well Being
    5. Health
    6. Covid 19


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