Wellbeing levels in UK at lowest since records began, new research suggests

The UK population “is suffering from high levels of psychological distress,” a report by the London School of Economics (LSE) and Simetrica-Jacobs, a consultancy that measures social impact, found.

Analysing a range of indicators including happiness, life satisfaction and anxiety, researchers recorded “substantially worse” levels of wellbeing when compared with the results of March/April 2019 survey.

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“This pattern is consistent across all regions in the UK, between men and women, across all age groups and across different ethnic groups,” the report’s authors state.

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“Levels of all measures of wellbeing are at the lowest they have ever been since records began in the UK [in 2011].”

The survey, which recorded responses from 1,982 adults across the UK between 9-19 April, also found that the nation as a whole is “just under the threshold for psychiatric morbidity”.

Psychiatric morbidity refers to the impact mental health conditions have on quality of life.

Psychological distress is particularly high for women, ethnic minority groups and key workers, the report adds.

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Researchers also looked at the economic impact of reduced levels of wellbeing, estimating that the total wellbeing cost to adults in the UK to be around £2.25 billion per day – or around £43 per adult per day.

The total wellbeing cost refers to the amount of money that may need to be spent on patients presenting with additional mental health issues as a result of the pandemic.

Paul Dolan, professor of psychological and behavioural science at LSE and one of the report’s authors, says it’s vital that the government devises mental health policies aimed at helping those most affected by the pandemic.

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He added: “The difference between reported levels of wellbeing in April 2020 compared to April 2019 is enormous, however, not surprising given the huge toll that COVID-19 and the policy responses are taking on us,” he said

“We calculate that the social distancing measures make up about two-thirds of the wellbeing impact and this highlights the importance of government policies to address the mental health needs of those whose lives are being most adversely affected by the current measures.”