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Mental health in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic: cross-sectional analyses from a community cohort study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Ru Jia, Kieran Ayling, Trudie Chalder, Adam Massey, Elizabeth Broadbent, Carol Coupland, Kavita Vedhara

Original languageEnglish
JournalBMJ Open
Accepted/In press25 Aug 2020


King's Authors


Objectives: Previous pandemics have resulted in significant consequences for mental health. Here we report the mental health sequelae of the COVID-19 pandemic in a UK cohort and examine modifiable and non-modifiable explanatory factors associated with mental health outcomes. We focus on the first wave of data collection which examined short-term consequences for mental health, as reported during the first four-six weeks of social distancing measures being introduced. Design: Cross sectional online survey Setting: Community cohort studyParticipants: N=3097 adults aged ≥18 years were recruited through a mainstream and social media campaign between 3/4/20-30/4/20. The cohort was predominantly female (n=2618); mean age forty-four years; 10% (n=296) from minority ethnic groups; 50% (n=1559) described themselves as key-workers and 20% (n=649) identified as having clinical risk factors putting them at increased risk of COVID-19Main outcome measures: depression, anxiety and stress scores. Results: Mean scores for depression (x ̅=7.69, sd= 6.0), stress (x ̅=6.48, sd=3.3), and anxiety (x ̅= 6.48, sd=3.3) significantly exceeded population norms (all p<0.0001). Analysis of non-modifiable factors hypothesised to be associated with mental health outcomes indicated that being younger, female and in a recognised COVID-19 risk group were associated with increased stress, anxiety and depression, with the final multivariable models accounting for 7-14% of variance. When adding modifiable factors, significant independent effects emerged for positive mood, perceived loneliness and worry about getting COVID-19 for all outcomes, with the final multivariable models accounting for 54-57% of total variance. Conclusions: Increased psychological morbidity was evident in this UK sample and found to be more common in younger people, women and in individuals who identified as being in recognised COVID-19 risk groups. Public health and mental health interventions able to ameliorate perceptions of risk of COVID-19, worry about COVID-19 loneliness, and boost positive mood may be effective.

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