Growing speculation over the easing of lockdown restrictions has led to an increase in stress levels among those worried about becoming seriously ill from Covid-19, according to research.
The findings are based on survey responses from more than 80,000 adults in England and are part of an ongoing study into the well-being and mental health of people during the coronavirus epidemic.
Scientists at University College London (UCL) found stress levels to be higher among those living with children, while levels were observed to be “notably lower” among people living in urban areas.
The findings come after the Government revealed it is drawing up a “roadmap” of how it plans to navigate the country through the crisis by gradually lifting restrictions.
The team also found life satisfaction ratings had been slowly returning to pre-Covid-19 levels but added that discussions around easing lockdown restrictions had “halted” this improvement.
Dr Daisy Fancourt, of UCL Epidemiology & Health Care and study leader, said: “Over the past week we have seen stress levels rise and the slight improvement in well-being we had seen since lockdown started has plateaued as discussions around an exit have begun.
“Stress about unemployment remains relatively stable, with around one in 12 people worried about their future.
“These levels are similar across most demographics, although higher in those under 60 and those with a mental health diagnosis.”
She said around one in six people are worried about finances, especially the under-60s, those with lower household incomes, people living with children, or those with a mental health diagnosis.
Dr Fancourt added: “Stress relating to accessing food has stayed low over the past week, with only around one in 12 people now worried about it, although this rises to around one in eight amongst people with a mental health condition and one in 10 for people with an annual household income lower than £30,000.”
The research is funded by the Nuffield Foundation with additional support from Wellcome and UK Research and Innovation (Ukri).
Participants can sign up anonymously at www.marchnetwork.org/research to take part in the ongoing study.