More than one third (34 per cent) of UK adults surveyed and in full-time work are concerned about losing their jobs.
One fifth (20 per cent) of unemployed people surveyed say they have had suicidal thoughts and feelings within the last two weeks.
One in 10 (11 per cent) unemployed people who have experienced stress during the pandemic say nothing has helped them to cope with the stress.
More than one third of UK adults in full-time work are worried about losing their jobs, according to new data from a study tracking the mental health risks and impacts of the pandemic.
The latest research, done on 24th – 26th April, also found that one fifth of unemployed adults surveyed said they had had suicidal thoughts and feelings during the last two weeks. This is more than double the rate among UK adults generally.
One in ten (11 per cent) of unemployed adults who have felt stress because of the pandemic also said that they had not found anything to help them cope with it. Again, this is double the rate among UK adults.
Another finding of the new survey is that one third of all adults surveyed said they were worried about their finances, such as bill payments and debts.
The survey data, from 4,246 UK adults aged 18 and over, were collected as part of a major UK-wide longitudinal research project called Coronavirus: Mental Health in the Pandemic.
“Our research is starting to reveal how the financial and employment inequalities caused and exacerbated by the pandemic are affecting people’s mental health,” said Mental Health Foundation Director Dr Antonis Kousoulis.
“We have very concerning evidence that many millions of people in the UK are worrying about fundamental financial matters and their job security – both of which are closely linked to poor mental health.
“However, it is also important to recognise that within the overall picture, it is people who were already unemployed at the start of the pandemic who are being most seriously affected. It is disturbing that more than one in 10 people who are unemployed and who have experienced stress during the pandemic said nothing has helped them cope with it.
“Without further, rapid UK government action to improve people’s economic security, we can expect things to get worse, especially for the poorest. The financial inequalities that lead to increased and unequal rates of mental ill-health will be intensified – and the benefits of recovery and coming out of the lockdown will not be shared equally.”
The project to track how the pandemic is affecting people’s mental health is being led by the Mental Health Foundation in partnership with the University of Cambridge, Swansea University, University of Strathclyde and Queen’s University Belfast.
The latest survey asked people about their mental health and how they had coped in relation to the pandemic over the “previous two weeks”.
The Mental Health Foundation is calling for the Government to provide an economic safety net for all, both during and after the pandemic. As a first step, the Universal Credit advance payment should immediately be made a grant, removing the current requirement to repay if over the following 12 months.
Professor Ann John, of Swansea University, said:
“We know that the mental health impacts of job loss and economic or employment uncertainty, compounded by financial worries about housing, heating and food can be serious they can also contribute to feelings of hopelessness. This may be what lies behind the suicidal thoughts and feelings we detected among unemployed people.
“We don’t know yet whether the Covid-19 pandemic will affect suicide rates but we do know that suicide is potentially preventable, if we take action to mitigate those effects now, rather than waiting for the number of suicides to rise. It’s also important to remember that most people who have suicidal thoughts and feelings do not go on to make suicide attempts or take their own lives.
“We know the mental health impacts of the pandemic will not be felt equally across our society and governmental actions need to reflect that. Financial safety nets are needed in the short term, but – moving forward – we will need economic action such as active labour-market policies.”
A detailed briefing paper about financial and employment inequality and mental health in the pandemic, based on the latest findings from the study, can be found here.
Mental Health advice on tackling financial problems and unemployment can be found here.
To report on suicide without contributing towards further suicides, media organisations can follow existing and COVID-19-specific media guidelines, such as the following:
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 4,246 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 24th – 26th April 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
The Samaritans offer emotional support 24 hours a day – in full confidence: call free on 116 123 or email email@example.com