BACKGROUND: The lasting effects of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic are likely to be significant.

AIMS: This study tracked worry and rumination levels during the pandemic and investigated whether periods with higher COVID-related worry and rumination were associated with more negative mental health and loneliness.

METHODS: A quota survey design and a sampling frame that permitted recruitment of a national sample were employed. Findings for waves 1 (March 2020) to 6 (November 2020) are reported (Nā€‰=ā€‰1943).

RESULTS: Covid-related worry and rumination levels were highest at the beginning of the first lockdown, then declined but increased when the UK returned to lockdown. Worry levels were higher than rumination levels throughout. High levels of COVID-related worry and rumination were associated with a five- and ten-fold increase in clinically meaningful rates of depression and anxiety (respectively) together with lower well-being and higher loneliness. The effects of COVID-related worry on depression and anxiety levels were most marked and clinically meaningful in individuals living with a pre-existing mental health condition.

CONCLUSIONS: Psychological interventions should include components that specifically target COVID-related worry and rumination. Individuals with pre-existing mental health conditions should be prioritised as we emerge from the current pandemic and in any future public health crises.


This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.

Cite as

O'Connor, D., Wilding, S., Ferguson, E., Cleare, S., Wetherall, K., McClelland, H., Melson, A., Niedzwiedz, C., O'Carroll, R., Platt, S., Scowcroft, E., Watson, B., Zortea, T., Robb, K. & O'Connor, R. 2022, 'Effects of COVID-19-related worry and rumination on mental health and loneliness during the pandemic: longitudinal analyses of adults in the UK COVID-19 mental health & wellbeing study', Journal of Mental Health. https://doi.org/10.1080/09638237.2022.2069716

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Last updated: 14 October 2022
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