Data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) looked at self-reported depression in Great Britain and rates of depression as diagnosed by a GP in England. The figures show that self-reported experience of depression has increased compared with pre-pandemic levels, with one in five adults experiencing depressive symptoms in last quarter, compared to one in ten before the pandemic outbreak. Conversely, the number of GP-diagnosed cases of adult depression has fallen during the pandemic. However, depression rose as a proportion of all diagnosis during that period, suggesting adults have been avoiding or putting off speaking to their GP about depression or any other health problems.
The data also shows that certain groups have been disproportionately affected, with women, younger people, people with less disposable income and people who are disabled or have another long-term physical health condition more likely to report depressive symptoms.
Responding to the data, Stephen Buckley, Head of Information at Mind, said:
“We cannot underestimate the impact that the pandemic has had on the nation’s mental health – whether that’s bereavement, the devastating loss of life, the impact of lockdown, or the impact of the latest economic recession which may have affected our jobs and livelihoods.
“This latest data from the ONS is worrying but not surprising, as it chimes with our own research. We surveyed 16,000 people during the initial lockdown and found that the pandemic has taken its toll on the nation’s wellbeing, with two in three young people (68 per cent) said their mental health got worse during the initial lockdown, compared to three in five (60 per cent) adults.
“The fact that GP-diagnosed cases of adult depression have fallen during the pandemic suggests people are not going to their GP for help, perhaps because they’re concerned about placing extra pressure on the NHS. This is worrying because we know that left untreated, mental health problems become more difficult and expensive to treat.
“If you notice changes to your thoughts, feelings and behaviours that are affecting your daily life, last longer than two weeks, or keep returning – talk to someone you trust, ideally your GP. A GP should be able to let you know if you might have a common mental health problem, like depression and anxiety, and signpost you to support.
“There are lots of treatments available, including talking therapy, medication and self-care techniques like exercise, mindfulness and arts therapies. We know that the NHS support offered remotely (via phone or online) during the lockdowns didn’t work for everyone, with many struggling with technology or experiencing confidentiality concerns. As we see demand for mental health services increase, investment is vital, with a range of timely, effective treatments made available to everyone who needs them, including face-to-face support.”