Depression doubles during coronavirus pandemic

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Twice as many adults in Britain are reporting symptoms of depression now compared with this time last year, Office for National Statistics figures suggest.

One in five people appeared to have depressive symptoms compared with one in ten before the pandemic.

The conclusions are based on a survey of more than 3,500 adults followed up over a 12-month period.

They were asked the standard set of questions used to assess depression.

People were asked to consider the previous two weeks and say how often they had experienced a range of symptoms, including changes in sleep or appetite, a loss of interest and pleasure in doing things, and difficulty concentrating.

Almost 20% of people met the threshold for depression, based on their responses, in June 2020 compared with just under 10% in July 2019.

While the measure of depression used is a well-known screening questionnaire though, Prof Elaine Fox at the University of Oxford, said: “It is important to remember that this does not give a diagnosis but rather an indication of everyday depressive feelings and behaviours”.

Severe mental health problems rise amid pandemic

And 13% of people surveyed had newly developed symptoms of “moderate to severe” depression over the survey period.

A small number of people (3.5%) saw an improvement in their symptoms.

People under 40, women, people with a disability and people who said they would struggle to meet an unexpected cost of £850 were the groups most likely to show symptoms of depression.

Of those surveyed who were experiencing some level of depression, people reported feeling most bothered by feelings of stress or anxiety.

Dr Charley Baker, an associate professor of mental health at the University of Nottingham, said: “It’s unsurprising to see these rates of low mood and depressive symptoms emerging…The people highlighted as struggling the most are those who are already more vulnerable to low mood, anxiety and poorer wellbeing.

“It’s important though to avoid over-pathologising what might be seen as reasonable responses to the current pandemic,” she said.

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