University College London (UCL) has released results from its ongoing COVID-19 Social Study – which has been tracking the psychological and social impacts of the pandemic.
The research – funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Nuffield Foundation, with support from UK Research and Innovation – focuses not only on the effects of the virus on adults in the UK, but also on measures such as social distancing.
Participants took part in panels and phone/video interviews across the past year. While datasets from the study are analysed in real-time, with results made regularly available to the public via the dedicated website.
Each report includes data from panel studies focused on different questions, typically featuring anywhere from 40,000 to over 90,000 participants. The research is presented in an easy-access grid format for simple use, with research available for individual downloads.
Stretching from one to 56 weeks, the results releases cover psychological responses to a range of different but related topics – beginning with people’s experiences of COVID-19 stressors, exercise and social behaviours, and ethnic and gender disparities in regards to mental health, through to worries about others, vaccine intentions, differences between Brexit and COVID-19 stress, and concerns about unemployment.
Findings from the most recent report – the 33rd release, for weeks 53 to 56 – focuses on the results of adult experiences in relation to compliance with government guidelines, confidence in the government, mental health, wellbeing, and physical and psychological harm, as well as changes in smoking habits and alcohol use.
Although the study is not intended to be representative of the entire UK population, from over 70,000 respondents, findings included: 65.6% of adults reported no change in their alcohol consumption compared to last year; more than one in three (39.0%) of adults are currently smoking more per day than a year ago; the vast majority of non-and ex-smokers (98.5%) have not taken up smoking over the year; all demographic groups reported
increasing levels of happiness and life satisfaction since the easing of restrictions; however, differences across demographic groups remain, with younger participants, people living alone, women, people from ethnic minority backgrounds, and those with lower household incomes reporting lower levels of happiness and life satisfaction; levels of depression and anxiety symptoms remain similar to autumn.
Researchers are now asking to speak to more demographics about their experiences of the pandemic – including people experiencing financial difficulties, women who have been pregnant during the last year, young carers, women who have experienced abuse, people with current or recent experiences of ‘problem alcohol’ or drug use, those who have been homeless, and service providers who work with people in these groups.
UCL says that the results are shared weekly with ‘key decision makers’ such as the NHS, the UK government, Public Health England, and the World Health Organisation.