Lockdown has brought about a significant increase in the numbers of people reporting high levels of anxiety and associated loneliness, with 19 million adults in Great Britain affected, new figures from ONS have revealed this month.
The ONS coronavirus and anxiety report which looks at factors associated with high anxiety during lockdown in the UK between 3rd April – 10th May 2020, found that more people are experiencing anxiety and loneliness now than a year ago.
Although anxiety levels across the general UK population have dropped since the significant increase at the beginning of lockdown where nearly half (49.6 per cent) reported high anxiety levels, ONS say anxiety levels remain at an ‘elevated level’ compared to 2019. Between 30th April and 10th May 2020, 37 per cent are now reporting high anxiety levels.
Interestingly, those who are married or in a civil partnership report higher levels of anxiety than those who weren’t.
Those living alone aren’t necessarily more likely to experience loneliness, either. In fact, ONS statistics show that single person households are just 2.8 times as likely to experience loneliness than other households. The findings appear to support previous theories that loneliness is not just about being alone but whether our social needs are being met, the ONS said.
Loneliness is ‘most strongly associated’ with high anxiety levels, the report found. Of those who said they ‘always’ or ‘often’ felt lonely, they were found to be five times more likely to experience high levels of anxiety than those who said they had never felt lonely.
Dawn Snape, assistant director of sustainability and inequalities division at the ONS said the equivalent of 7.4 million people said their wellbeing had been affected due to loneliness since the pandemic, known as the ‘lockdown lonely’.
Commenting on the findings, Ms Snape said there is ‘understandable concern’ around the impact of the pandemic on people’s wellbeing, with 39 per cent of people who are married or in civil partnership particularly affected, in comparison with just 19 per cent pre-pandemic.
“It may in part be because of the challenges of home-schooling alongside work and other responsibilities,” she said. “Another marked change is in those aged 65 years or older. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic we consistently saw lower anxiety ratings in those aged 65 years and older, but now we are seeing the highest levels of anxiety amongst this group in lockdown.”
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