An analysis of changes in wellbeing during the COVID‑19 pandemic in the UK

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

April 25, 2022



We investigated the trajectory of wellbeing over the course of the first wave and sought to determine whether the change in wellbeing is distributed equally across the population. Specifically we investigated pre-existing medical conditions, social isolation, financial stress and deprivation as a predictor for wellbeing and whether there were community level characteristics which protect against poorer wellbeing.

Using online survey responses from the COVID-19 modules of Understanding society, we linked 8379 English cases across five waves of data collection to location based deprivation statistics. We used ordinary least squares regression to estimate the association between deprivation, pre-existing conditions and socio-demographic factors and the change in well-being scores over time, as measured by the GHQ-12 questionnaire.

A decline in wellbeing was observed at the beginning of the first lock down period at the beginning of March 2020. This was matched with a corresponding recovery between April and July as restrictions were gradually lifted. There was no association between the decline and deprivation, nor between deprivation and recovery. The strongest predictor of wellbeing during the lock down, was the baseline score, with the counterintuitive finding that for those will pre-existing poor wellbeing, the impact of pandemic restrictions on mental health were minimal, but for those who had previously felt well, the restrictions and the impact of the pandemic on well-being were much greater.

These data show no evidence of a social gradient in well-being related to the pandemic. In fact, well-being was shown to be highly elastic in this period indicating a national level of resilience which cut across the usually observed health inequalities.

Published in

Discover Social Science and Health


Volume: 2:6






Open Access

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