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Loneliness, coping, suicidal thoughts and self-harm during the COVID-19 pandemic: a repeat cross-sectional UK population survey
BMJ Open, Volume: 11, Issue: 12, Start page: e048123
Swansea University Authors: Ann John , Sze Chim Lee
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DOI (Published version): 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-048123
Objectives: There has been speculation on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated lockdown on suicidal thoughts and self-harm and the factors associated with any change. We aimed to assess the effects and change in effects of risk factors including loneliness and coping, as well as pr...
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Objectives: There has been speculation on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated lockdown on suicidal thoughts and self-harm and the factors associated with any change. We aimed to assess the effects and change in effects of risk factors including loneliness and coping, as well as pre-existing mental health conditions on suicidal thoughts and self-harm during the COVID-19 pandemic. Design: This study was a repeated cross-sectional online population-based survey. Participants and measures: Non-probability quota sampling was adopted on the UK adult population and four waves of data were analysed during the pandemic (17 March 2020 to 29 May 2020). Outcomes were suicidal thoughts and self-harm associated with the pandemic while loneliness, coping, pre-existing mental health conditions, employment status and demographics were covariates. We ran binomial regressions to evaluate the adjusted risks of the studied covariates as well as the changes in effects over time. Results: The proportion of individuals who felt lonely increased sharply from 9.8% to 23.9% after the UK lockdown began. Young people (aged 18–24 years), females, students, those who were unemployed and individuals with pre-existing mental health conditions were more likely to report feeling lonely and not coping well. 7.7%–10.0% and 1.9%–2.2% of respondents reported having suicidal thoughts and self-harm associated with the pandemic respectively throughout the period studied. Results from cross-tabulation and adjusted regression analyses showed young adults, coping poorly and with pre-existing mental health conditions were significantly associated with suicidal thoughts and self-harm. Loneliness was significantly associated with suicidal thoughts but not self-harm. Conclusions: The association between suicidality, loneliness and coping was evident in young people during the early stages of the pandemic. Developing effective interventions designed and coproduced to address loneliness and promote coping strategies during prolonged social isolation may promote mental health and help mitigate suicidal thoughts and self-harm associated with the pandemic.
Mental health, COVID-19, mental health, public health, suicide & self-harm
Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences
The study is funded by MQ Transforming Mental Health (MQBF/3 ADP), the National Institute for Health Research Applied Research Collaboration (NIHR ARC EoE/U.SY.SYBJ.GAAB) and the Mental Health Foundation UK (MHF/G105979), with further in-kind or human resource contributions from the University of Cambridge, Swansea University, Strathclyde University and Queens University Belfast, UK. The Waterloo Foundation and the Manolo Blahnik International have also provided smaller funding contributions for the study