Previously comfortably-off people who suffered sudden and massive drops in household income during the pandemic crisis recorded the sharpest increases in mental illness, according to a major survey.
While mental health worsened across all groups during the period, those forced to become newly dependent on universal credit and self-employment grants experienced the most dramatic and ongoing decline in mental wellbeing.
“The pandemic took people who had been for decades living on a comfortable income into a totally different world overnight. The shock of that sudden drop towards the poverty line was enormous,” said Neil Smith, head of analysis at the National Centre for Social Research, which carried out the study. He said: “We can observe increased mental distress across the population as a consequence of the pandemic, but people faced with growing financial insecurity have been far harder hit than the financially secure. With the economic fallout of the pandemic expected to continue, the mental health of people relying on employment and benefits support during the crisis should not be ignored.”
The lowest rates of mental illness were people whose incomes increased during the pandemic – and those whose incomes were unaffected, often pensioners.