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.  

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Volume287
Early online date24 Mar 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2021

Keywords

  • employment, mental health, redundancy, economic crisis, COVID-19

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