The pandemic has affected poor people’s mental health the most | Torsten Bell

We’ve all struggled with lockdown, but those on the lowest incomes have paid the biggest price

Guardian graphic. Source: ONS
Guardian graphic.

Covid-19 is a virus-driven public health crisis. But it’s also taking a big toll on our mental health, according to new Office for National Statistics data on symptoms of depression surging during the pandemic. A staggering one in five of us experienced some form of depression during the latest lockdown. Women are significantly more likely to be affected than men (24% v 17%). But the biggest increases are for the young, those with a disability, parents and those who would struggle to afford an unexpected expense.

Of course, the relationship between low incomes and mental health is complex – causality runs both ways. But the gaps between rich and poor in chances of experiencing depression are huge. Nearly two in five of those on the lowest incomes (under £10,000) experienced depressive symptoms, more than three times the rate of people with incomes of £50,000 or more.

Data inevitably simplifies the complex reality of mental ill health. But what hard statistics make clear is the highly uneven impact of the pandemic and the reality that tackling lasting mental health damage must be a central part of our recovery plan as we emerge from it.

• Torsten Bell is chief executive of the Resolution Foundation. Read more at


Torsten Bell

The GuardianTramp

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