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BackgroundThe COVID-19 pandemic has had profound consequences for population mental health. However, it is less clear for whom these effects are sustained.AimsTo investigate the prevalence, incidence, prognosis and risk factors for symptoms of depression and anxiety in a UK cohort over three distinct periods in the pandemic in 2020.MethodAn online survey was completed by a UK community cohort at three points (n = 3097 at baseline, n = 878 completed all surveys): April (baseline), July to September (time point 2) and November to December (time point 3). Participants completed validated measures of depression and anxiety on each occasion, and we prospectively explored the role of sociodemographic and psychological factors (loneliness, positive mood and perceived risk of and worry about COVID-19) as risk factors.ResultsDepression (Patient Health Questionnaire-9 means: baseline, 7.69; time point 2, 5.53; time point 3, 6.06) and anxiety scores (Generalised Anxiety Disorder-7 means: baseline, 6.59; time point 2, 4.60; time point 3, 4.98) were considerably greater than pre-pandemic population norms at all time points. Women reported greater depression and anxiety symptoms than men. Younger age, history of mental health disorder, more COVID-19-related negative life events, greater loneliness and lower positive mood at baseline were all significant predictors of poorer mental health at time point 3.ConclusionsThe negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health has persisted to some degree. Younger people and individuals with prior mental health disorders are at greatest risk. Easing of restrictions and resumption of social interaction could mitigate the risk factors of loneliness and positive mood.

Original publication




Journal article


BJPsych open

Publication Date





Centre for Academic Primary Care, School of Medicine, University of Nottingham, UK.