Depression and anxiety higher among ethnic minority Brits during lockdown

While around 17 per cent of people from white backgrounds have reported often being lonely during lockdown, this figure rose to 23 per cent among those from Bame backgrounds.

On average, fewer than one in 10 people have experienced psychological or physical bullying or abuse during lockdown, but reports have been around 80 per cent higher amongst Bame groups, according to the research.

People from Bame backgrounds have experienced higher levels of depression and anxiety during the Covid-19 lockdown, a new study has found.

Thoughts of death, although affecting fewer than 15 per cent of people, have been on average a third higher in Bame groups, according to the study.

And while fewer than 5 per cent of people have reported self-harming during lockdown, this was 70 per cent higher amongst Bame groups, according to research by University College London (UCL).

“Our study shows that people from Bame backgrounds are experiencing more negative effects of lockdown than those from white backgrounds,” said Dr Daisy Fancourt, of UCL’s epidemiology and health care department, and lead author of the study.

“This is especially true around direct and indirect mental health issues. These findings may be due to ethnic inequalities in the UK, with people from Bame backgrounds being statistically more likely to be in risk categories for adverse experiences during the pandemic, such as having lower levels of household income and poorer baseline mental health.

“Differences in experiences and inequalities themselves may also be products of individual and systemic racism, an issue highlighted by the Black Lives Matter protests in recent weeks.”

The research, funded by the Nuffield Foundation with additional support from health charity Wellcome Trust and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), also found that people from Bame communities were more concerned about their employment prospects.

But worries around catching Covid-19 and access to food have been about the same. Bame groups’ confidence in government has been around 14 per cent lower across the lockdown period, confidence in the ability of the health service to cope with the pandemic has been 12 per cent lower, and confidence that essentials will be accessible has been 5 per cent lower.

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Levels of “complete” compliance with lockdown measures have dropped further across all groups over the last week, especially amongst younger adults, but “majority” compliance remains at around 90 per cent overall.

“Good” compliance has been similar across ethnicity, apart from decreasing among people from Bame backgrounds shortly after the death of George Floyd when protests took place across the UK, although it has since increased.

“Complete” compliance has been consistently around 10 per cent lower among Bame groups.

In the past week, depression and anxiety levels have shown improvements, as have levels of happiness and life satisfaction, although all still remain below the usual averages.

More than half of people (57 per cent) said that their mental health has been about the same as before Covid-19, with 8 per cent reporting it being better than usual.

More than a third (35 per cent) of adults said their mental health has been worse than usual, a figure that increases to around half when looking at young adults, people with a diagnosed mental illness, and people from Bame backgrounds.

Cheryl Lloyd, education programme head at the Nuffield Foundation, said: “We know that people from some ethnic minority groups have higher mortality and infection rates than those from white ethnic groups, and these findings show that is also true when it comes to reporting poor mental health, even though levels of anxiety about catching Covid-19 are similar between the ethnic groups compared in this report.

“In trying to understand the reasons for these differences, it is important to bear in mind the other ways in which people from minority ethnic groups are being disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, for example through being more likely to work in health and social care, and, particularly for men, being more likely to work in shut-down sectors.

“There will also be notable differences between different minority ethnic groups in relation to their experience of the pandemic.”

Researchers said the study, launched in the week before lockdown, is the UK’s largest analysis of how adults are feeling about the lockdown, government advice and overall wellbeing and mental health. It followed over 70,000 participants in the past 15 weeks.

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