Research by the University of Sheffield and Ulster University observed a spike in depression and anxiety after the Prime Minister’s announcement of a lockdown on 23 March.

The following day 38 per cent of study participants reported significant depression and 36 per cent reported significant anxiety. On the day before the announcement, 16 per cent reported significant depression and 17 per cent reported significant anxiety.

Rates remained elevated later in the week, but not as high as immediately after the announcement, with just over 20 per cent on each subsequent day reporting significant levels of depression and anxiety, according to the large representative study of the pandemic’s impact on mental health.

We spoke to Dr Jilly Gibson-Miller, a lecturer in health psychology at the university, over Skype. This is what she had to say:

The team of experts, led by Professor Richard Bentall at the University of Sheffield, carried out a psychological survey of 2,000 people between Monday 23 March and Friday 27 March using standardised measures of mental health.

Across the week, the study found that 25 per cent of women and 18 per cent of men exhibited clinically meaningful symptoms of anxiety, 23 per cent of women and 21 per cent of men showed signs of depression, and 15 per cent of women and 19 per cent of men were stressed. These results are elevated compared to those of similar surveys from before the coronavirus crisis.

The team will survey the same group again in the coming months to see how their experiences, beliefs and mental health symptoms change as the pandemic progresses in the UK, and to compare their results with parallel surveys being conducted by research partners in other countries.

Professor Richard Bentall, Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Sheffield, said:

We were surprised to see a spike in the number of people reporting significant levels of depression and anxiety immediately after the announcement of a lockdown.

Professor Richard Bentall