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One in seven Scottish adults ‘feeling hopeless’ as lockdown eases

One in seven Scottish adults are experiencing feelings of hopelessness owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study involving the University of Strathclyde.

The research, led by the Mental Health Foundation Scotland, also found the same feeling in one quarter of unemployed people of young adults aged 18-24 and of people with pre-existing health conditions.

However, these coincided with levels of anxiety and worry falling among Scottish adults as a whole.

The data has been published as part of a major longitudinal study into mental health called Coronavirus: Mental Health and the Pandemic. It forms part of the UK-wide Mental Health in the Pandemic study, which started in mid-March and is led by the Mental Health Foundation, in partnership with the Universities of Cambridge, Swansea, Strathclyde and Belfast.

Divergence

The research identified that, as the pandemic has continued, there has been a divergence of experience, with key vulnerable groups being worst affected.

One of the groups most seriously affected by feelings hopelessness was young adults. One quarter (25 per cent) of 18-to-24 year-olds said they had felt hopeless as a result of the pandemic during the previous two weeks.

Another group that is significantly affected was unemployed people. One quarter of unemployed people said they had felt hopeless over the last two weeks.

At the same time one quarter (26 per cent) of people with pre-existing mental health conditions said they were feeling hopeless.
The polling of 2004 Scottish adults aged 18 and above was carried out on 18-26thth June. The first wave of the survey was originally launched on 17th to 19th March 2020.

The new data are from the Mental Health in the Pandemic study, which started in mid-March. The Universities of Cambridge, Swansea and Belfast are also partners in the study.

Lee Knifton, Director of Mental Health Foundation Scotland and Northern Ireland, and Co-director of Strathclyde’s Centre for Health Policy, said: “What the research shows is that even as lockdown is easing, millions are still struggling. Overall, about one in seven people in Scotland are experiencing hopelessness.

“But dig down a bit deeper into the research and you find that we’re not all in this together. Some are particularly vulnerable.

“In particular, our research showed that young adults, people with existing mental health problems and unemployed people are struggling more than the rest of the population as a whole.

“It’s clear the pandemic remains a much more devastating experience for certain groups That is why we need to urgently see a whole-government mental health response and recovery plan.

“It is good news that anxiety and worry has fallen, but this should not obscure the fact that vulnerable groups are actually struggling more. The Scottish government must respond to their needs, and take an all-government approach.

“Intervention is needed urgently to prevent many people’s current mental distress from escalating into tragic consequences. This research clearly identifies where some of those areas of most need are – including young adults and people with existing mental health problems.”

Professor Alec Morton, Head of Strathclyde’s Department of Management Science and the University’s lead adviser on the project, said: “As the immediate threat from Covid-19 retreats, many Scots are cautiously looking forward to getting out and about and seeing their loved ones once again. However, this research is a reminder that, for many of our compatriots, the crisis is not over.

“Significant percentages of the population still report feeling hopeless, lonely and even suicidal – and based on previous research, we can expect that for some, the psychological trauma will last for months or years. Some people have been unable to access the healthcare that they need over the last few months or have coped with the stresses of lockdown by over-eating or drinking too much, resulting in a legacy of compromised health.

“Of particular concern must be those without jobs, or in precarious and low-paid employment. For this group, how to pay bills and put food on the table represent ongoing challenges and sources of stress that will not be alleviated simply by easing lockdown restrictions.

“As we transition to the new normal, a priority for policy must be to ensure that this section of society is not left behind.”

The research also found indications of better news. Levels of anxiety and worry have fallen across the population from 64% of Scottish adults at the beginning of lockdown to 49 percent in the most recent survey.

The survey, of 2004 adults, was carried out online between 18-26 June.