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Research highlights effect of COVID restrictions on people with mental health issues

Research commissioned by FCC highlights concerns about the impact of COVID restrictions on people with mental health issues

Word cloud from FCC's research with Ipsos MORI
12th October 2020 about a 3 minute read

As the UK faces further restrictions as part of the effort to combat COVID-19, research commissioned by Future Care Capital has highlighted the effect of social isolation on already marginalised groups.

The study of social media data carried out by Ipsos Mori found numerous mentions of how the disruption to people’s daily routine caused by the restrictions was impacting on groups such as those with existing mental health conditions.

In June an Office for National Statistics survey found that almost one in five adults was experiencing some form of depression, almost double the rate before the pandemic (one in ten [9.7%] from July 2019-March 2020).

Report 4 of the Communicating Public Health series focused on discussions about mental and physical health among social media users.

Although direct health risks were a major cause for concern, other issues were highlighted including the impact of changing working practices, experience of being on furlough or in insecure employment plus the effect of being isolated from friends and family.

Tweets highlighted in the report include:

Ah well, 3 weeks of loneliness begins. I understand why its necessary, but no-one cares about those who are by themselves and the impact it will have. Not everyone can play board games with housemates every night.

I normally love to go and browse Waterstones for new books, or CD shops for the latest releases. I have mental health problems and going to my favourite shops gave me a huge confidence boost. But now I cant do that any more

My sleep schedule has been ruined – sometimes I can’t sleep but am tired during the day so I take a nap. Then I wake up in the night because I napped. But it isn’t too much of a problem because I’m not going anywhere. I’m finding it tricky to stay busy for a whole day without going out.

As lockdown continues, I become increasingly unstable, some days it seems that everything is okay and others it just becomes overwhelming and the scary thoughts come back. Haven’t had a good nights sleep in months and have dreams that seem pretty lifelike (they don’t make much sense either). Showering and dressing up barely happen. I feel bad for loved ones because it’s just a repetitive cycle

Disrupted sleep was a common theme with many people complaining of not being able to fall asleep due to anxiety.

Many posts mentioning loneliness discussed how to support people including online workshops and sharing tips on staying connected. Just under half (46%) of social media posts analysed offered help and support to others.

The report authors concluded that there are a number of positives to take from the stories shared on social media. Firstly many people were open to talking about their experiences, feelings and emotions. They also note the wave of informal and formal support that was available from the very early stages of the pandemic.

However they warned that social media does not reflect all groups and further research is needed to explore whether there is a digital divide in access to mental health help and support.