Covid Scotland: Adults with long-term conditions significantly more anxious about restrictions easing, study finds

Adults living with long-term health conditions are significantly more anxious about the easing of lockdown restrictions this summer, a study by the Mental Health Foundation has found.

Almost two-thirds of Scots living with long-term conditions said they were “very” or “fairly” anxious about restrictions easing, compared to just 45 per cent of the general population.

Among those whose day-to-day activities are “very limited” by a long-term physical health problem, 61 per cent said they were anxious about the “current lifting of restrictions”, while the figure was 62 per cent among those with a mental health condition that pre-dates the pandemic.

The research was carried out between June 16 and July 2, with more than 2,000 adults surveyed.

Nightclubs in England were allowed to reopen from July 19, while in Scotland this was allowed from August 9. Photo by Rob Pinney/Getty Images

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The Mental Health Foundation said more support was needed for those who required it.

Some 39 per cent of survey respondents said they had worried over the previous fortnight about a new wave of infection in the next few months.

Older adults were more likely to be worried, with 45 per cent of people aged 55-plus saying this, along with 45 per cent of people with long-term physical health problems.

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Susan Solomon, leader of the study and senior research manager at the Mental Health Foundation in Scotland, said the pandemic had exacerbated existing inequalities felt by those living with long-term physical and mental health conditions, single parents and young adults.

"We know that people who identify within these groups are more likely than the general population to have lived with loneliness, anxiety, hopelessness, stress and, for some, feeling suicidal,” she said.

“We must ensure support is there for every person who needs it in the recovery phase.

"That’s why the Mental Health Foundation is leading a £2 million Covid Response Programme, working with partners across the UK to offer practical programmes of support to people whose mental health has been most adversely impacted by the pandemic.”

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The research is a partnership between the Mental Health Foundation and the universities of Cambridge, Swansea, De Montfort Leicester, Strathclyde and Queen’s Belfast.

Professor Tine Van Bortel of Cambridge and De Montfort universities said: “The pandemic has clearly exacerbated existing inequalities and brought new ones to the fore. Unfortunately, the re-opening of society seems to be doing the same, with many more people needing extra support.”

It comes after paediatricians warned the return to school this week may be “quite a big trauma” for children after a year of disruption.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) said while this will be a benefit to many children, some may be anxious.

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The Scottish Government laid out a Mental Health Recovery plan in October to respond to demands for mental health support exacerbated by the pandemic.

Ms Solomon urged the government to “fully realise” this plan and provide appropriate mental health support to people with long-term conditions whose mental health has been affected by the pandemic.

It comes ahead of annual figures on suicide in Scotland due to be published on Tuesday.

Last year’s report revealed that 833 people in Scotland ended their own life in 2019, up from 784 in the previous year.

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