Anxiety and stress levels are surprisingly down during the COVID-19 outbreak

When the coronavirus outbreak started to shutter businesses and force people into safety measures like social distancing and shelter-in-place, people were stressed.

An ABC News/Washington Post survey found that 70% of people experienced stress due to the COVID-19 outbreak, which was higher than the stress levels (61%) seen during the Great Recession in March 2009. People prone to depression or stress were in an even more complicated state as normal outlets to help power through were abandoned due to social distancing.

However, stress and anxiety have taken a turn for the better since the start of the outbreak, according to a new study.

Researchers compiled data in UCL’s COVID-19 study to find that stress and anxiety levels have decreased since the COVID-19 outbreak. In addition, people are less worried about getting the bug or becoming seriously ill by it. The study, which started in March, tallied 74,000 participants where they asked them about their mental health during the outbreak.

Over the past week, at least one in five people in the UK said they felt “major stress” due to the pandemic, according to the study, which is far less than how respondents felt the week of March 23, where one in three people felt major stress and anxiety due to the coronavirus.

“It is encouraging to see a decline in stress related to COVID-19 and anxiety in general. However, stress, anxiety and depression remain at high levels for people living alone, with a lower household income or with a diagnosed mental health condition,” said UCL professor Dr. Daisy Fancourt, who lead the study.

“Fortunately, there is no sign that worries about money or employment have increased with longer isolation. But it remains to be seen how this evolves over the coming weeks. Worries relating to accessing food have decreased around four-fold from when lockdown began.”

More people reported feeling better about their lives during the pandemic compared to earlier in the crisis, but those numbers didn’t match how people felt about their lives compared to the same time last year.