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Parents of children under 5 and women 'hardest hit by Covid-19 lockdown'

A study found no deterioration in mental health in men and the over-45s.

Image: PA Images

WOMEN, YOUNG PEOPLE and parents of children under five have been hardest hit psychologically by the Covid-19 lockdown, research suggests.

A new study found 27% of people in the UK were experiencing clinically significant levels of psychological distress in April, compared with 19% before the pandemic.

A General Health Questionnaire (GHQ) assessing the severity of a mental health problem over the previous few weeks also showed increasing distress across the population in April.

The 12 questions included how often people experienced symptoms such as difficulties sleeping or concentrating, problems with decision-making or feeling overwhelmed.

  • Our colleagues at Noteworthy want to investigate measures being taken to tackle a pandemic-induced mental health crisis in Ireland. You can help fund them here.

Increases were bigger in some groups compared to others, with a 33% rise among women, 32% among parents with young children and 37% among young people aged 18 to 24, the study found.

People who were employed before the pandemic also averaged a notable rise in their GHQ score.

The 17,452 people in the study were taking part in the UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS) and were aged 16 and over.

The research, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, included a team from the University of Manchester, King’s College London, City University and the National Centre for Social Research.

The researchers concluded: “By late April, 2020, mental health in the UK had deteriorated compared with pre-Covid-19 trends.

“Policies emphasising the needs of women, young people, and those with pre-school aged children are likely to play an important part in preventing future mental illness.”

Sally McManus, joint senior author of the study from City University, said: “The pandemic has brought people’s differing life circumstances into stark contrast.

“We found that, overall, pre-existing inequalities in mental health for women and young people have widened.

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“At the same time new inequalities have emerged, such as for those living with pre-school children.

“These findings should help inform social and educational policies aimed at mitigating the impact of the pandemic on the nation’s mental health, so that we can try to avoid a rise in mental illness in the years to come.”

The team did not find significant deterioration in mental health in men and the over-45s.

However, they said further studies should examine ways that men may express distress, for example through addictions to alcohol or gambling.

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