Research finds people with depression “hidden group” vulnerable to pandemic

depression pandemic, COVID
© Sam Wordley

In a study of nearly 60,000 people by University College London (UCL), scientists found people with depression and anxiety before COVID were a “hidden group” – extra vulnerable to long-term health and financial consequences

UCL scientists, running a series of studies in relation to COVID, looked at how people with depression and anxiety could be impacted by long-term effects of the pandemic.

People with higher levels of depression and anxiety went into the pandemic with a more fragile sense of mental health. Those individuals are the focus of this study, published in The British Journal of Psychiatry, which surveyed 59,482 people in England.

“Many people lost their jobs”

Lead author Dr Michael Green (University of Glasgow) said: “During the pandemic, many people lost their jobs or lost their income and faced disruptions to healthcare. Our study shows that this disruption was particularly likely to affect people with prior mental ill health.

“We need to ensure that healthcare and support for economic hardship are not overly difficult to access for these vulnerable people, especially as existing pandemic economic supports like furlough are removed.”

24% more likely to have delayed medical procedures

These people were 24% more likely to have had delays to medical procedures, 12% more likely to lose their job. Further data found that they were also 33% more likely to have had disruption to prescriptions or medication during the first eight to 10 months of the pandemic than those with average levels of anxiety and depression.

Professor Nishi Chaturvedi (MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at UCL), who co-leads the Covid-19 Longitudinal Health and Wellbeing National Core study, said: “The anxiety and depression experienced by the participants of the study go beyond the mental ill health reported to GPs and healthcare services. This is a largely hidden group of people vulnerable to potentially long-lasting health and socioeconomic consequences of the pandemic.”

Read the full study here.

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