Why the pandemic is not all bad news for mental health

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The pandemic and lockdown has actually improved the mental health of about a third of the UK’s workers, new research has claimed.

A study by virtual office provider Rovva marking Stress Awareness Week (2-6 November) found that people’s new routines, established during the pandemic, had allowed more time for hobbies, better quality of sleep, improved diet and fitness regimes and better overall mental health.

Overall, it found that the mental health of 33% of UK respondents had improved. Less surprisingly, 38% said it hadn’t improved but was not getting any worse and 29% said the pandemic made their mental health worse.

Measured by the top five cities in terms of mental health improvement, the study found that 42% of people in London said their wellbeing had been benefitted as opposed to 37% in Belfast, 36% in Norwich, 34% in Southampton and 30% in Liverpool.

In London, 24% of people said their mental health had worsened, with 34% saying it was unchanged.

Overall, 79% of respondents said they were content with their new routines since the pandemic, while 80% said they felt just as productive as they did before coronavirus. More than half (63%) reported that their perspective on life and what was important to them had changed, and over half of them said they would try to keep their new habits in the months to come.

Human resources was the top ranking line of work when it came to feeling productive as 91% of HR workers said they were at least as productive as they were before the pandemic. Nearly three-quarters of respondents said their finances had stayed the same or improved and more than half (53%) said they wanted to keep many aspects of their previous routines. More women then men felt their perspective on life had changed (64% to 58%).

Meeting outside in parks and doing walks with friends and family were two activities that helped people socialise in ways they hadn’t before the pandemic and were found to be enjoyable. A large proportion also said they enjoyed Zoom meetings with friends and families and had made more effort to keep in touch with people during the pandemic, leading many to say they had actually seen more of people during the past few months than would normally be the case.

The pursuit of happiness is no new concept but the recent pandemic has put sweeping limitations on our usual experiences, forcing people to reanalyse what they do, and can do, to be happy.

Counsellor and psychotherapist Cheryl Sandford said of the findings: “What’s happening is surprising and exciting. People are seeking richer experiences with limited means. And, through a better work-life balance without commutes and extended working hours, people are able to reconnect with the important activities of rest, hobbies, relationships, and self growth. Within my own practice, work-related stress levels have decreased.”

The survey was of just over 1,000 adults.

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