The impact of reduced working on mental health in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic: results from the Understanding Society COVID-19 study.  

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Abstract

Background
The COVID-19 pandemic has precipitated an unpredictable economic crisis, currently affecting daily life for millions of workers. We examined the mental health impact of reduced working in a nationally representative sample of employees.

Method
We used Wave one (April 2020) of the Understanding Society UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS) COVID-19 study, with linkage to baseline mental health data from the UKHLS annual survey (January 2017- December 2018). Analysis was based on adults aged 18-65 who were employees in January/February 2020 (n=8,708), with psychological distress assessed using the GHQ-12. Logistic regression examined the mental health impact of reduced working and reasons for the reduction.

Results
Forty two percent of employees reported reduced working by April 2020, with 22% furloughed. There was no evidence of an association between reduced working per se and psychological distress in the fully adjusted model (OR=1.06, 95%CI 0.91-1.23). Those permanently laid-off (less than 1% of employees) were most vulnerable to adverse mental health effects in the early months of the pandemic (OR=3.60, 95%CI 1.55-8.37). We also found evidence of higher levels of psychological distress among those sick or self-isolating, and those with reduced working due to caring responsibilities.

Limitations
While the GHQ is a widely used and validated instrument in identifying potential psychiatric disorders, it is important to note that it does not represent a clinical assessment.

Conclusions
Longitudinal examination of employment transitions and mental ill-health related to pandemic outcomes is imperative and should help inform public health responses and ongoing government policy in supporting those adversely affected.


Original languageEnglish
Article numberJAD13170
Pages (from-to)308-315
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Volume287
Early online date24 Mar 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Dr Ferry designed the study, conducted analyses and drafted the manuscript. Professor Bunting also conducted analyses and drafted the manuscript. Dr Rosato, Dr Curran and Professor Leavey assisted with study design, including the analytic strategy and reviewed and edited all sections of the manuscript. None. This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) (project number: ES/L007509/1). We acknowledge the excellent work by the UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS) research team in provision of data via the UK data service repository, as well as the study participants for their continued commitment. Understanding Society is an initiative funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and various Government Departments, with scientific leadership by the Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of Essex, and survey delivery by NatCen Social Research and Kantar Public. The research data are distributed by the UK Data Service.

Funding Information:
We acknowledge the excellent work by the UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS) research team in provision of data via the UK data service repository, as well as the study participants for their continued commitment. Understanding Society is an initiative funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and various Government Departments, with scientific leadership by the Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of Essex, and survey delivery by NatCen Social Research and Kantar Public. The research data are distributed by the UK Data Service.

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) (project number: ES/L007509/1).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021

Copyright © 2021. Published by Elsevier B.V.

Keywords

  • employment, mental health, redundancy, economic crisis, COVID-19
  • COVID-19
  • Employment
  • Redundancy
  • Mental health
  • Economic crisis
  • Pandemics
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Mental Health
  • Young Adult
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Longitudinal Studies

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