An international study, led by the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Spain) spin-off Open Evidence, has revealed that the mental health of 41% of the UK population is at risk as a result of the coronavirus crisis. The research project, which involves the participation of researchers from the Glasgow University, Università degli Studi di Milano, Università degli Studi di Trento, Tilburg University and the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, indicates that almost 60% of the UK population require "the government not only to focus on containing the virus, but also on preventing a major economic crisis".
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The study, which consisted of three surveys, collected data on people in the United Kingdom, Spain and Italy over the course of three consecutive weeks, from 24 April to 17 May. The aim was to analyze stress- and trauma-related behavioral changes within the relevant populations in the context of the pandemic, as well as gauging public opinion with regard to the information provided by the government and its response in relation to the health crisis.
The data collected in the first survey, which sampled 10,551 people (3,523 in the United Kingdom, 3,524 in Spain and 3,504 in Italy) between 24 April and 1 May, show that most of the population between 18 and 75 years of age report having felt down, depressed, or hopeless about the future at some point during this period: 57% in the United Kingdom, 67% in Spain and 59% in Italy. In the words of Cristiano Codagnone, co-founder of one of the participating entities, UOC spin-off Open Evidence, "the data provides a picture on the impact of the lockdown and we need to be prepared for the associated social and health consequences of that".
The analysis of this data alongside additional factors such as housing type (full ownership, mortgaged property, rental, etc.), living conditions (square metres of accommodation, number of people living there, presence of school-age children), loss of employment, closure of own business, loss of income and access to COVID-19 testing has provided a general gauge in relation to people's state of mental health in the three countries. The results reveal that the mental health of 41% of people in the UK is at risk, with figures of 46% and 42% registered for Spain and Italy, respectively.
The economy also matters
The overwhelming majority of participants in all three countries, almost 60% in both the UK and Spain and 65% in Italy, agreed that, "In addition to containing the virus, governments also need to focus on the prevention of a major economic crisis".
The individuals surveyed were also asked about measures for lifting the lockdown. Around 70% of people in the UK and Spain and almost 65% of Italians agreed with the following statement: "The government needs to inform citizens about what needs to be done to comply with safety measures, as well as clearly explain plans for exiting lockdown".
Three waves of results on the socioeconomic impact of COVID-19
The study will be looking at the results from three consecutive waves of surveys sent to the same sets of individuals in the three countries. The first round of results corresponding to the survey conducted between 24 April and 1 May has now been published.
The second survey, aimed at assessing the impact of the situation on the participants' cognitive ability, risk perception, confidence and altruism, was conducted between 2 and 9 May and the results are expected to be released during the week beginning 18 May.
The third survey, planned for 10 to 17 May, will focus on uncertainty and conflicts related to privacy and the common good, and individual and collective interests related to the distribution of resources, with the results set to be published during the week beginning 25 May.
An algorithm was used to analyze the survey data
Open Evidence, a UOC spin-off with more than 20 years' experience, specializes in conducting big data research to analyze the impact of different factors on society. Its co-founder, Codagnone , explains that the organization was responsible for the development and training of an algorithm to analyze all the socio-demographic and socio-economic variables included in the survey.
The initiative is funded by Open Evidence and BDI-Schlesinger.