BACKGROUND: Waves 1 to 3 (March 2020 to May 2020) of the UK COVID-19 Mental Health and Wellbeing study suggested an improvement in some indicators of mental health across the first 6 weeks of the UK lockdown; however, suicidal ideation increased.

AIMS: To report the prevalence of mental health and well-being of adults in the UK from March/April 2020 to February 2021.

METHOD: Quota sampling was employed at wave 1 (March/April 2020), and online surveys were conducted at seven time points. Primary analyses cover waves 4 (May/June 2020), 5 (July/August 2020), 6 (October 2020) and 7 (February 2021), including a period of increased restrictions in the UK. Mental health indicators were suicidal ideation, self-harm, suicide attempt, depression, anxiety, defeat, entrapment, loneliness and well-being.

RESULTS: A total of 2691 (87.5% of wave 1) individuals participated in at least one survey between waves 4 and 7. Depressive symptoms and loneliness increased from October 2020 to February 2021. Defeat and entrapment increased from July/August 2020 to October 2020, and remained elevated in February 2021. Well-being decreased from July/August 2020 to October 2020. Anxiety symptoms and suicidal ideation did not change. Young adults, women, those who were socially disadvantaged and those with a pre-existing mental health condition reported worse mental health.

CONCLUSIONS: The mental health and well-being of the UK population deteriorated from July/August 2020 to October 2020 and February 2021, which coincided with the second wave of COVID-19. Suicidal thoughts did not decrease significantly, suggesting a need for continued vigilance as we recover from the pandemic.


This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Cite as

Wetherall, K., Cleare, S., McClelland, H., Melson, A., Niedzwiedz, C., O'Carroll, R., O'Connor, D., Platt, S., Scowcroft, E., Watson, B., Zortea, T., Ferguson, E., Robb, K. & O'Connor, R. 2022, 'Mental health and well-being during the second wave of COVID-19: longitudinal analyses of the UK COVID-19 Mental Health and Wellbeing study (UK COVID-MH)', BJPsych Open, 8(4), article no: e103. https://doi.org/10.1192/bjo.2022.58

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Last updated: 14 October 2022
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