Tracking the mental health and wellbeing of the Scottish population during the COVID-19 pandemic is important to understand the wider implications of the pandemic and lockdown, beyond those who have been directly impacted by the virus. This report outlines the findings from Wave 3 of the Scottish COVID-19 Tracker Study, which is the third of five waves in a longitudinal study spanning one year. The aim of this wave of the study is to better understand experiences of the Scottish population during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, and their mental health and wellbeing during October 2020.
As data collection began in May 2020, after COVID-19 pandemic restrictions had already been put into place, this wave report is unable to report on how mental health and wellbeing has changed from before the pandemic in comparison to the Wave 3 survey period (October 1st 2020 – 4th November 2020). However, comparison between Wave 1 and Wave 2 with Wave 3 data suggests an overall increase in mental ill-health during this time, although some findings were more mixed. Specifically, levels of distress and loneliness increased from Wave 2 to Wave 3 and levels of life satisfaction decreased between these waves. Both depressive and anxiety symptoms increased from Wave 1 to Wave 3, although there were no notable changes between Wave 2 and Wave 3. Mental wellbeing also did not change in this time. In contrast, suicidal thoughts decreased for the whole sample from Wave 2 to Wave 3, although these were still slightly higher than at Wave 1.
Consistent with the cross-sectional findings from both Wave 1 and Wave 2, the Wave 3 cross-sectional findings suggest there are particular groups within society that may be at an elevated risk for more negative mental health and wellbeing outcomes such as depressive symptoms, anxiety symptoms, suicidal thoughts, and lower mental wellbeing. The highest rates of negative mental health outcomes in Wave 3 were reported among:
- young adults
- respondents with a pre-existing mental health condition
- a pre-existing physical health condition
- and those from a lower SEG
The findings suggest that overall mental health and wellbeing has deteriorated on several markers from Wave 1 and Wave 2 to Wave 3, which roughly coincides with an increasing of lockdown restrictions across Scotland. This implies that restrictions are having an impact upon people's mental health; this effect will be monitored closely in subsequent waves.
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