Mental health and well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic: longitudinal analyses of adults in the UK COVID-19 Mental Health & Wellbeing study

Br J Psychiatry. 2021 Jun;218(6):326-333. doi: 10.1192/bjp.2020.212.


Background: The effects of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) on the population's mental health and well-being are likely to be profound and long lasting.

Aims: To investigate the trajectory of mental health and well-being during the first 6 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 (31 March to 9 April 2020), 2 (10 April to 27 April 2020) and 3 (28 April to 11 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, and levels of defeat and entrapment decreased across waves whereas levels of depressive symptoms did not change significantly. Positive well-being also increased. Levels of loneliness did not change significantly over waves. Subgroup analyses showed that women, 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 well-being 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.

Keywords: COVID-19; depression; general population; mental health; suicidal ideation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • COVID-19*
  • Communicable Disease Control
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Pandemics
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Young Adult