Covid-19: Higher rates of people feeling depressed, CSO report finds

More than half surveyed in report say mental health has been negatively affected

A near-empty Grafton Street during lockdown. Fewer people today believe life will return to normal as quickly as they had previously thought, according to CSO research

A near-empty Grafton Street during lockdown. Fewer people today believe life will return to normal as quickly as they had previously thought, according to CSO research

 

The amount of people self-identifying as depressed or downhearted continues to grow with every wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to new data.

More than half of those surveyed now say their mental health has been negatively affected, and despite a rise in strict adherence to lockdown rules, fewer people today believe life will return to normal as quickly as they had previously thought, according to a report by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) exploring the impact of the pandemic.

The Social Impact of Covid-19 Survey also found an increasing number of people have no confidence that Level 5 restrictions are sufficient to deal with the virus.

The online survey, the fifth in its series, uses a sample of 1,621 individuals to form “a picture of the economic and social situation of the citizens of Ireland”.

Among its key findings are that 57.1 per cent of respondents report their mental health and well-being is negatively affected, with 41.7 per cent rating their overall life satisfaction as “low”.

Slightly more than one in five of those in the 18 to 34 age category reported being “downhearted or depressed” all or most of the time in the four weeks prior to the survey, compared to 5.7 per cent of the 70-and-over age group.

However, the rate of those describing themselves as “downhearted or depressed” all or most of the time continues to increase – from 5.5 per cent during the first wave last April, to 11.5 per cent during the second wave in November and now 15.1 per cent.

The data also gives some insight into the levels of public optimism about a way out of the pandemic. Last November, just over 39 per cent thought that by November 2021 their lives would “return to something similar to what it was pre-Covid”. This month that figure had fallen to 23.6 per cent.

In getting to that point, there is also a decreasing confidence in the Government’s approach. Again, last November 10.2 per cent felt Level 5 restrictions were insufficient, while this month that proportion had increased to 26.4 per cent. That apparent decline in confidence corresponds with a leveling off in infection rates and the recent extension of severe restrictions until early April.

There is evidence of further scepticism about the response too – February’s results show over 61 per cent of people believe that even when Level 5 is lifted, similar restrictions will be reintroduced before the end of the year.

The CSO also found people’s belief in their adherence to these restrictions is strengthening – 75.1 per cent now rate their compliance as high compared to 65.2 per cent last November.

Senior statistician Gerry Reilly noted more people now regard their wellbeing as “low” than in previous surveys.

“In 2013 when many households were suffering the effects of the 2007 financial crisis, this rate was 15.3 per cent, and it dropped to 8.7 per cent in 2018 when the economy was growing strongly,” he said.

“In April 2020, during the first Covid-19 wave, three in ten respondents rated their overall life satisfaction as ‘low’. The rate increased to 35.6 per cent in November 2020, during the second Covid-19 wave,” he said.

“Almost six in ten respondents to the February 2021 survey reported that their mental health/well-being has been negatively affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Female respondents are more likely to report a negative effect on mental health and wellbeing – 62.4 per cent in the latest survey compared to 51.7 per cent among men.

Conversely, 4.2 per cent of people say the pandemic has had a positive effect on them.

Those living in rented accommodation are twice as likely to report feeling consistently lonely than those who own their own homes.