On some of the benefits felt by survey respondents during the first lockdown, Dr Hampshire said:
“The surveys also revealed that a surprising proportion of people experienced substantial positives from the first lockdown including a greater sense of community, improved environment, connection with loved ones, reduced commute times and more spare time for family and pursuits. There are things that we can learn from people’s positive experiences that can help us to improve our lives as we emerge from the pandemic. Notably, access to pleasant outdoor space was also very important in the perception of the pandemic, relating positively to people feeling less stressed and tired, having fewer health concerns and a more positive outlook. This data not only adds to growing evidence of the benefits of green space to mental health, but also shows that this is important in resilience against negatives of the pandemic.”
On the next steps, Dr Hampshire said:
“Our next step in this study has been to re-contact survey respondents six and twelve months later to see how people have adapted to the prolonged pandemic conditions and how they are coping as lockdown measures ease. We’ll also be examining data collected from children under 16 as it’s so important to assess mental health effects in the lowest age groups.
Additionally, we have reports from more than 50,000 people describing, in their own words, the main positives and negatives of the pandemic, their most useful coping strategies and their perspectives on the pandemic’s origins and governmental response. We will be publishing further work applying AI methods to derive new insights from this data, with the aim to learn as much as we can that can help us not only in future pandemics, but also as we emerge and begin to rebuild our daily lives.”
This publication on mental health and wellbeing is just one of many studies Dr Hampshire is hoping to extract from this impressive and unique dataset. The group recently released findings in EClinicalMedicine in more than 84,000 people, showing that in some severe cases, Covid-19 infection was linked to substantial cognitive deficits for months, equivalent to the brain ageing by 10 years.
Dr Hampshire is an Associate Member supporting the UK DRI Care Research and Technology Centre led by Prof David Sharp. A leader in design and development of behavioural diagnostics, his involvement in the work of the Centre facilitates the development of standardised assessments of cognition that can be scaled to large populations, helping us uncover how the brain changes in healthy ageing and dementia.
The study is a collaboration between researchers from Imperial College London, King’s College London, the University of Cambridge, the University of Chicago, the University of Southampton, and the NHS Foundation Trusts of Southern Health and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
See the full UK DRI press release for more insight from the study
Hampshire, A., Hellyer, P.J., Soreq, E. et al. Associations between dimensions of behaviour, personality traits, and mental-health during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom. Nat Commun 12, 4111 (2021).
Article published: 16 July 2021