Socio-economic inequalities in social network, loneliness and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic

Rusi Jaspal, Glynis M. Breakwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: During the COVID-19 pandemic, a focus on isolation and loneliness is important, especially as social distancing policies (which for some groups involve self-isolation or quarantine) are likely to accentuate these experiences and affect mental health. Aims: This study focuses on socio-economic inequalities in social network, loneliness and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: Two-hundred and fourteen residents of Wandsworth, a South West London Borough in the United Kingdom completed an online cross-sectional survey on the impact of COVID-19 on mental health. Data were analysed using independent samples t-tests and multiple regression. Results: Middle-aged people reported a less strong social network and more loneliness, anxiety and depression than younger people. People with a long-term health condition reported a less strong social network, more loneliness, more general practitioner (GP) and hospital visits, and poorer mental health than those with no long-term health conditions. People receiving State financial benefits reported less use of public spaces, a less strong social network, more loneliness, more GP and hospital visits and poorer mental health than those not receiving benefits. Greater neighbourhood identification was associated with a stronger social network and better mental health outcomes. Multiple regression analyses showed that, over and above loneliness, perceived personal risk of COVID-19 constitutes an additional precipitant for both depression and anxiety when controlling for other variables. Conclusion: As a novel stressor associated with the pandemic, the situational and involuntary perception of being at risk of COVID-19 may be stimulating anxiety and depressive symptomatology, which will need to be managed effectively as resurgences of the disease are predicted and communicated to the general public under growing mistrust and uncertainty.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Social Psychiatry
Early online date7 Dec 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Dec 2020

Keywords

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • Health inequalities
  • mistrust
  • neighbourhood identification
  • perceived risk of COVID

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

Cite this