Self-isolation having mental, physical and financial toll on those forced to quarantine, Government study finds

Anyone who has either tested positive for coronavirus or has come into contact with a positive case is required to self-isolate for ten days Credit: Welsh Government

More than half of people who had to self-isolate due to coronavirus felt it negatively affected their mental health, Swansea University research has revealed.  

More than a quarter of those surveyed said having to self-isolate also negatively affected their income.

The study - commissioned by Senedd Members - offers insight into the financial, social and emotional impact of self-isolation.

It found that 75% of those self-isolating said no one from the contact tracing service checked on their wellbeing while they isolated and 60% either hadn't heard about the £500 self-isolation support scheme or didn't know how to apply for it. 

However, the research did find a high degree of compliance with self-isolation rules; 80% of people fully complied with the guidelines and just one per cent reported they did not self-isolate at all.

The research was led by Dr Simon Williams, senior lecturer in people and organisation and Dr Kimberly Dienes, lecturer in clinical and health psychology in collaboration with Dr Paul White, associate professor in people and organisation. 

Dr Williams said: "We found that self-isolation was negatively impacting many people's mental health. 

"In many cases, losing that little bit of freedom, for example the ability to go out for exercise or to the shops for essential items, made a big difference to their emotional wellbeing. 

Having to stay at home is having a negative impact on many of those forced to do it, the study has found Credit: PA Images

"Our research suggests that compliance with self-isolation was very high, but also there is a minority who are not complying to varying degrees.

"Amongst those not sticking to the rules, there was a spectrum of behaviours from those who didn't self-isolate at all, to those who went out for the odd jog at 5am in the morning." 

The researchers recommended that all those asked to self-isolate should consistently have their mental health and financial situation checked on during self-isolation. 

Those identified as needing further assistance should be provided with information and guidance by contact tracers in order to access mental health support services or financial assistance such as the self-isolation payment, they said.  

The study's other findings include: 

  • Almost half of people who self-isolated reported physical health challenges - lack of exercise, unusual aches and pains - (46%)

  • Many reported mental health challenges - anxiety, feeling down, loneliness - (46%), and trouble adjusting their daily routine (34%).

  • Around a fifth, 20%, said lack of access to essentials was an issue

  • 14% of those surveyed had experienced care commitment challenges

  • 12% reported financial challenges from having to self-isolate

There was a great deal of variability in how long people waited between when they felt they were exposed to the virus and when they were contacted and told to self-isolate and in how often they were contacted after being told to self-isolate. 

Dr Dienes said: "It was clear from our results that the majority of people are adhering to the request to self-isolate and feel the instructions were clear, but they need more support to self-isolate, both financially and emotionally. 

"A greater emphasis on the Protect in Test, Trace, Protect is needed.   

"Additionally, we need to reach the small group of people who feel they are unable to self-isolate, understand their reasons, and provide them with needed support."

In response the Welsh Government said it was doing all it could to help those needing support.

A spokesperson said: "Coronavirus is the biggest single global public health crisis the world has faced in more than a generation and has had a significant impact on every aspect of our lives.

"We understand these are challenging times for everyone.

"That's why we've mobilised all our resources to respond to the pandemic, launching an unprecedented series of interventions to protect people’s health, wellbeing and livelihoods.

"We will continue to do all we can to support everyone in Wales in the weeks and months ahead."

Read more: