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Home  >  Medical Research Archives  >  Issue 149  > Life Changes during the First COVID-19 Lockdown and Mental Well-Being at Different Stages of the Life Course: Evidence from Five British Cohorts
Published in the Medical Research Archives
Dec 2023 Issue

Life Changes during the First COVID-19 Lockdown and Mental Well-Being at Different Stages of the Life Course: Evidence from Five British Cohorts

Published on Dec 26, 2023




Objectives: The COVID-19 crisis significantly reshaped individuals’ daily lives and work, potentially also affecting their mental health. This study examines changes in psychological stress, anxiety, and depression during the first lockdown amongst five British cohorts at different stages of the life course: older adolescence, early adulthood, mid-career, and later life. It investigates the correlation between self-reported stress and life changes across a range of domains including health; education and the move to home schooling; working patterns and furlough; and living arrangements and family life.

Methods: The study analyses data from 14,130 cohort members participating in the special COVID-19 surveys conducted in May 2020. These surveys are part of the ongoing 1946, 1958, 1970, and 2000-01 British birth cohorts, as well as the Next Steps cohort (born in 1989-90). Probit regression models assess the likelihood of increased stress among individuals reporting pandemic-related life changes compared to those who did not, across a range of different life domains. The study also examines the association between heightened stress and subsequent anxiety and depression.

Results: The research highlights the diverse challenges faced by individuals at different life stages during the early phase of the pandemic. Young people faced disrupted education, with many returning to the parental home; parents had to cope with the closure of schools and childcare services, dealing with young children at home; mid-career professionals also found themselves balancing work and family responsibilities; retirees faced cancelled medical appointments and disrupted home care services. All these challenges were associated with significantly increased reported stress among affected individuals; particularly in adolescence and young adulthood, where mental health outcomes were poorer than in older cohorts. Moreover, heightened stress substantially raised the risk of developing anxiety and depression.

Conclusions: The study affirms that individuals in various life stages faced exceptional challenges during the initial lockdown, adversely affecting mental well-being. Adolescents and young adults, experiencing more life changes but lacking coping resources, felt the disruption especially heavily. Going forward, given the potential health consequences of prolonged stress, anxiety, and depression, policymakers must consider these temporary challenges through a life course lens when designing appropriate interventions and support services.

Author info

Maria Evandrou, Jane Falkingham, Min Qin, Athina Vlachantoni

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