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Mental health at lowest ebb since the start of the coronavirus pandemic

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04 February 2021

Our quality of life is now the worst it has been since the start of the coronavirus pandemic: people in the Northern Netherlands currently give their life a score of 6.9. Last summer, this was 7.7 and at the start of the pandemic, it was 7.4. In addition, feelings of solidarity have slumped in the Netherlands: less than half of the population feel as if they are in this together, compared with 70% in March 2020. These results come from Lifelines coronavirus study carried out by the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG) and the University of Groningen (UG). As part of this study, some 30,000 people in the Northern Netherlands have completed a questionnaire about their physical and mental health on 19 occasions since March 2020.

Slump evident in all layers of the population

The impact of the coronavirus measures is being felt throughout society: the mental health of every population group is at the lowest ebb since the start of the pandemic. In the Lifelines coronavirus study, this is evident from the number of people who feel sombre, lethargic or lonely. The slump is visible in every layer of the population, irrespective of age, level of education, gender and type of household. 

Lude Franke (professor at the UMCG) says: ‘There are undoubtedly people who are wondering whether they are the only ones who feel so tired and listless. But our research clearly shows that people are experiencing these feelings in every level of society. It might help them to know that they are not the only ones struggling with the consequences of the coronavirus.’

Young adults

Young adults have been particularly hard hit. In the summer, they gave their lives a score of 7.7, but this has now dropped to 6.0. This can be partly explained by the fact that the restrictions have hit this group, which includes students, particularly hard (online teaching, little social interaction and no jobs in hospitality). Another explanation is that a relatively high number of them (7%, compared with a national average of 3.5%) test positive for COVID-19, or someone in their house tests positive, obliging them to go into quarantine.

Highly educated professionals still go to the office

Despite the strict lockdown measures, there is one striking difference between now and the first lockdown: more people are going into work. In the first lockdown, 40% of people worked on location. This time, 51% are going to their normal place of work. Highly educated professionals are now more inclined to go into work, whereas they did not do this during the first wave.

Learning from data

Franke explains the possible impact of this research: ‘The detailed information that this large group of Lifelines participants have given us about their health, living and working situations since the start of the pandemic allows us to conduct research into the risk factors for contracting the coronavirus, and about which measures have been the most effective. We hope that in future, our findings will help policymakers to devise measures that have as little impact as possible on the wellbeing of the Dutch population.’

​All of the results of this study are available on www.coronabarometer.nl​.​