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Impact on people

Impact on people

Understanding how COVID-19 impacts people across the UK

CLOSER partner studies have launched questionnaires to survey over 100,000 participants about the impact of COVID-19 on their lives.

CLOSER is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to maximise the use, value and impact of the UK’s longitudinal studies.

Data collected in the coming months from CLOSER’s various longitudinal studies will explore both the short and long-term impact of the pandemic on individuals, families and communities across the UK – assessing life pre-, during and post-COVID-19.

The data gathered will focus on the effects of current restrictions, looking at health, social, economic and behavioural changes, and will represent all age groups, from adolescents to older generations. It will provide insights for research and policy and help to inform the UK’s response to the immediate and after-effects of COVID-19.

CLOSER has also launched a COVID-19 update bulletin – sign up to stay informed.

COVID-19 Social Study will assess mental health

A weekly study is underway that looks at the mental health and wellbeing of UK adults during lockdown.

The COVID-19 Social Study has been running since just before the UK went into lockdown, with over 86,000 people participating so far. University College London is conducting the research, which is funded by UKRI, the Nuffield Foundation and the Wellcome Trust.

The research findings are being shared in real time with the government, community groups, the general public and the World Health Organisation. They are being used to help shape policy, wellbeing initiatives and the messaging around Covid-19.

Dr Daisy Fancourt, Associate Professor of Psychobiology and Epidemiology at University College London (UCL) and lead author of the study says there are interesting results so far.

During previous epidemics, such as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), Ebola and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), mental health typically deteriorated for people during quarantine.

With COVID-19 however, Fancourt says a different pattern has been recorded. “There are higher levels of anxiety and depression than normal, but not the continued increase we thought would happen. It got worse prior to lockdown coming in and then stabilised during lockdown.”

The study comes under the umbrella of the mental health initiative The MARCH Network, which examines how social, cultural and community assets support mental health and is also funded by UKRI through AHRC and ESRC.

The impact of physical distancing and social isolation

ESRC-funded social scientists, including those at its newly-founded Centre for Society and Mental Health at Kings’ College London, are working to provide the evidence that will help mitigate the profound effects that social isolation can have on people during the outbreak.

What is the impact of social isolation among disadvantaged and vulnerable groups?

As part of ESRC’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a review was commissioned and published, to address the question: What is known about the impacts of social isolation on disadvantaged, marginalised, and vulnerable populations in the context of pandemics and other public health crises?

The review defines vulnerable groups as those at greater risk of infection and/or of adverse effects of social distancing measures. It identifies gaps and priorities for further research and proposes policies to mitigate the impacts of social distancing and isolation and prevent the widening of social inequalities.

Several key findings emerged:

  • Mental health problems are more common in vulnerable and disadvantaged groups following individual or community-wide periods of social isolation in the context of public health crises.
  • The disproportionate impact among vulnerable and disadvantaged groups extends to other interrelated outcomes, such as income, employment, access to food, and discrimination.
  • These disparities are especially pronounced at the intersections of multiple vulnerabilities and disadvantages (e.g. low income, insecure employment, and minority ethnic group status).
  • Social restrictions that confine people to their homes for extended periods increase risk of abuse and exploitation, particularly among girls and women.
  • Further inequalities are evident in people’s capacity to comply with social distancing measures, with this being most difficult for those on low incomes, in insecure employment, and living in overcrowded homes.