Survey reveals people’s mental and physical health declined during pandemic

A survey released by Public Health Wales has revealed that while people are now less concerned about catching Coronavirus and more likely to be vaccinated, many feel that their mental and physical health has worsened since the start of the pandemic.

In results from the latest national public engagement survey, 42 per cent of people surveyed thought their mental health is worse now than it was before the pandemic, with females and younger adults more likely to report this than others, and 38 per cent felt that their physical health is worse now.

Other results also showed that the proportion of adults that are very worried about catching coronavirus has reduced substantially since the start of 2021, from 31 per cent to 8 per cent, and that vaccine acceptance has increased from 64 per cent in October 2020 to 95 per cent in March 2021, where it remains.

Professor Mark Bellis, Director of Policy and International Health at Public Health Wales, said:

“People are already starting to report lower feelings of isolation and higher levels of happiness as they begin to come out of the pandemic restrictions. However, results also shows what a negative effect the last year has had on people’s general health and wellbeing. In particular people from deprived areas, younger people and women are more likely to report negative effects on different aspects of their physical and mental health.”

“These results show us that we must do all we can to now support people’s recovery from the wider effects of the pandemic, to ensure a successful recovery and a future of good health and wellbeing across all our communities.”

Professor Karen Hughes, who coordinates the survey, added: “It is great to see such high levels of support for vaccination across Wales. However, our results suggest that women, young people and those living in the poorest communities show the highest levels of vaccine hesitancy and continued efforts are required in order to communicate the health advantages of vaccination in these groups.”

Other findings include:

  • 43 per cent felt that their fitness levels had worsened since the start of the pandemic
  • 65 per cent of adults now report feeling happy, an increase from only 48 per cent in January 2021
  • 80 per cent now believe that Welsh Government responded well to the pandemic

Lynne Neagle, Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing, said: “We recognise the pandemic has taken a huge toll on the mental health of our population. As we continue on our path to recovery, it is more important than ever we ensure that those who remain concerned about their mental health and wellbeing know support is available, where and how to access it.

“We have increased investment to strengthen mental health support. This includes to CALL, our national mental health helpline and to Silver cloud, which offers a range of online support.  We are hopeful that levels of anxiety will improve as the remaining restrictions are eased. It is encouraging to see increased support for our vaccination programme which will be vital to the recovery of both the physical and mental health of the nation.

The latest Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) public engagement survey report from Public Health Wales covers the period of 10 – 16 May 2021, when 601 people were surveyed.

Every two weeks, Public Health Wales conducts interviews with hundreds of people aged 18 or over across Wales, to understand how Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the measures being used to prevent its spread are affecting the physical, mental and social wellbeing of people in Wales.

The survey is part of a raft of measures implemented by Public Health Wales to support public health and wellbeing through Coronavirus.