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Mental health responses to the COVID-19 pandemic: a latent class trajectory analysis using longitudinal UK data

Pierce, M., McManus, S. ORCID: 0000-0003-2711-0819, Hope, H., Hotopf, M., Ford, T., Hatch, S. L., John, A., Kontopantelis, E., Webb, R. T., Wessely, S. and Abel, K. M. (2021). Mental health responses to the COVID-19 pandemic: a latent class trajectory analysis using longitudinal UK data. The Lancet Psychiatry, 8(7), pp. 610-619. doi: 10.1016/S2215-0366(21)00151-6

Abstract

Background
The mental health of the UK population declined at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Convenience sample surveys indicate that recovery began soon after. Using a probability sample, we tracked mental health during the pandemic to characterise mental health trajectories and identify predictors of deterioration.

Methods
This study was a secondary analysis of five waves of the UK Household Longitudinal Study (a large, national, probability-based survey that has been collecting data continuously since January, 2009) from late April to early October, 2020 and pre-pandemic data taken from 2018–19. Mental health was assessed using the 12-item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12). We used latent class mixed models to identify discrete mental health trajectories and fixed-effects regression to identify predictors of change in mental health.

Findings
Mental health was assessed in 19 763 adults (≥16 years; 11 477 [58·1%] women and 8287 [41·9%] men; 3453 [17·5%] participants from minority ethnic groups). Mean population mental health deteriorated with the onset of the pandemic and did not begin improving until July, 2020. Latent class analysis identified five distinct mental health trajectories up to October 2020. Most individuals in the population had either consistently good (7437 [39·3%] participants) or consistently very good (7623 [37·5%] participants) mental health across the first 6 months of the pandemic. A recovering group (1727 [12·0%] participants) showed worsened mental health during the initial shock of the pandemic and then returned to around pre-pandemic levels of mental health by October, 2020. The two remaining groups were characterised by poor mental health throughout the observation period; for one group, (523 [4·1%] participants) there was an initial worsening in mental health that was sustained with highly elevated scores. The other group (1011 [7·0%] participants) had little initial acute deterioration in their mental health, but reported a steady and sustained decline in mental health over time. These last two groups were more likely to have pre-existing mental or physical ill-health, to live in deprived neighbourhoods, and be of Asian, Black or mixed ethnicity. Infection with SARS-CoV-2, local lockdown, and financial difficulties all predicted a subsequent deterioration in mental health.

Interpretation
Between April and October 2020, the mental health of most UK adults remained resilient or returned to pre-pandemic levels. Around one in nine individuals had deteriorating or consistently poor mental health. People living in areas affected by lockdown, struggling financially, with pre-existing conditions, or infection with SARS-CoV-2 might benefit most from early intervention.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2021 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. The final version of this article has been published in The Lancet Psychiatry, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S2215-0366(21)00151-6
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Departments: School of Health Sciences > Healthcare Services Research & Management
Date available in CRO: 12 May 2021 08:41
Date deposited: 12 May 2021
Date of acceptance: 12 April 2021
Date of first online publication: 6 May 2021
URI: https://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/26112
[img] Text - Accepted Version
This document is not freely accessible until 6 May 2022 due to copyright restrictions.
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

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