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Mental health before and during COVID-19 in two longitudinal UK population cohorts

Kwong, Alex S. F., Pearson, Rebecca M., Adams, Mark J., Northstone, Kate, Tilling, Kate, Smith, Daniel, Fawns-Ritchie, Chloe, Bould, Helen, Warne, Naomi, Zammit, Stan, Gunnell, David, Moran, Paul, Micali, Nadia, Reichenberg, Abraham, Hickman, Matthew, Rai, Dheeraj, Haworth, Simon, Campbell, Archie, Altschul, Drew, Flaig, Robin, McIntosh, Andrew M., Lawlor, Deborah A., Porteous, David and Timpson, Nicholas J. 2021. Mental health before and during COVID-19 in two longitudinal UK population cohorts. British Journal of Psychiatry 218 (6) , pp. 334-343. 10.1192/bjp.2020.242

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Background The COVID-19 pandemic and mitigation measures are likely to have a marked effect on mental health. It is important to use longitudinal data to improve inferences. Aims To quantify the prevalence of depression, anxiety and mental well-being before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, to identify groups at risk of depression and/or anxiety during the pandemic. Method Data were from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) index generation (n = 2850, mean age 28 years) and parent generation (n = 3720, mean age 59 years), and Generation Scotland (n = 4233, mean age 59 years). Depression was measured with the Short Mood and Feelings Questionnaire in ALSPAC and the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 in Generation Scotland. Anxiety and mental well-being were measured with the Generalised Anxiety Disorder Assessment-7 and the Short Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale. Results Depression during the pandemic was similar to pre-pandemic levels in the ALSPAC index generation, but those experiencing anxiety had almost doubled, at 24% (95% CI 23–26%) compared with a pre-pandemic level of 13% (95% CI 12–14%). In both studies, anxiety and depression during the pandemic was greater in younger members, women, those with pre-existing mental/physical health conditions and individuals in socioeconomic adversity, even when controlling for pre-pandemic anxiety and depression. Conclusions These results provide evidence for increased anxiety in young people that is coincident with the pandemic. Specific groups are at elevated risk of depression and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is important for planning current mental health provisions and for long-term impact beyond this pandemic.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Medicine
MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics (CNGG)
Additional Information: This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
ISSN: 0007-1250
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 11 December 2020
Date of Acceptance: 13 November 2020
Last Modified: 23 Jun 2021 13:04

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