Mental health before and during the COVID-19 pandemic in two longitudinal UK population cohorts

Alex S.F. Kwong, Rebecca M. Pearson, Mark J. Adams, Kate Northstone, Kate Tilling, Daniel Smith, Chloe Fawns-Ritchie, Helen Bould, Naomi Warne, Stanley Zammit, David J. Gunnell, Paul A. Moran, Nadia Micali, Abraham Reichenberg, Matthew Hickman, Dheeraj Rai, Simon Haworth, Archie Campbell, Drew Altschul, Robin FlaigAndrew M. McIntosh, Deborah A. Lawlor, David Porteous, Nicholas J. Timpson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Background The COVID-19 pandemic and mitigation measures are likely to have a marked effect on mental health. It is important to use longitudinal data to improve inferences. Aims To quantify the prevalence of depression, anxiety and mental well-being before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, to identify groups at risk of depression and/or anxiety during the pandemic. Method Data were from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) index generation (n = 2850, mean age 28 years) and parent generation (n = 3720, mean age 59 years), and Generation Scotland (n = 4233, mean age 59 years). Depression was measured with the Short Mood and Feelings Questionnaire in ALSPAC and the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 in Generation Scotland. Anxiety and mental well-being were measured with the Generalised Anxiety Disorder Assessment-7 and the Short Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale. Results Depression during the pandemic was similar to pre-pandemic levels in the ALSPAC index generation, but those experiencing anxiety had almost doubled, at 24% (95% CI 23-26%) compared with a pre-pandemic level of 13% (95% CI 12-14%). In both studies, anxiety and depression during the pandemic was greater in younger members, women, those with pre-existing mental/physical health conditions and individuals in socioeconomic adversity, even when controlling for pre-pandemic anxiety and depression. Conclusions These results provide evidence for increased anxiety in young people that is coincident with the pandemic. Specific groups are at elevated risk of depression and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is important for planning current mental health provisions and for long-term impact beyond this pandemic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)334-343
Number of pages10
JournalBritish Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • COVID-19
  • anxiety disorders
  • depressive disorders
  • generation Scotland


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