Background; The effects of COVID-19 on the population's mental health and wellbeing are likely to be profound and long-lasting. Aims: To investigate the trajectory of mental health and wellbeing during the first six weeks of lockdown in adults in the UK. Method: A quota survey design and a sampling frame that permitted recruitment of a national sample was employed. Findings for waves 1 (31st March to 9th April 2020), 2 (10th April to 27th April 2020) and 3 (28th April to 11th May 2020) are reported here. A range of mental health factors was assessed: pre-existing mental health problems, suicide attempts and self-harm, suicidal ideation, depression, anxiety, defeat, entrapment, mental well-being, and loneliness. Results: A total of 3077 adults in the UK completed the survey at wave 1. Suicidal ideation increased over time. Symptoms of anxiety, levels of defeat and entrapment decreased across waves whereas levels of depressive symptoms did not change significantly. Positive wellbeing also increased. Levels of loneliness did not change significantly over waves. Sub- group analyses showed that females, young people (18-29 years), those from more socially disadvantaged backgrounds, and those with pre-existing mental health problems have worse mental health outcomes during the pandemic across most factors. Conclusions: The mental health and wellbeing of the UK adult population appears to have been affected in the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. The increasing rates of suicidal thoughts across waves, especially among young adults, are concerning.


Copyright © © The Authors 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Royal College of Psychiatrists This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://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

O'Connor, R., 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. 2020, 'Mental health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic: longitudinal analyses of adults in the UK COVID-19 Mental Health & Wellbeing study', The British Journal of Psychiatry, 218(6), pp. 326-333. https://doi.org/10.1192/bjp.2020.212

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Last updated: 01 April 2023
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