The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on mental health. Specifically, the stringent lockdown restrictions have heightened anxiety and depression. Therefore, monitoring and supporting the mental health of the population during these unprecedented times is an immediate priority.
In this systematic review and meta-analyses, articles that explored the prevalence of anxiety and depression during the first COVID-19 lockdown in the United Kingdom were included. We searched the databases Embase, Medline (PubMed), Web of Science, and PsycINFO for cross-sectional studies. We conducted meta-analyses of prevalence rates using a random-effects model, and the heterogeneity of studies was examined using the I
Fourteen studies involving 46,158 participants were included in the review. The studies use clinical cut-off scores on anxiety and depression measures to define cases. While the prevalence of anxiety was 31.00% (95% CI = 26.00 to 35.00), the prevalence of depression was 32.00% (95% CI = 29.00 to 35.00). The prevalence of anxiety pre-pandemic was 4.65%, indicating a 26.35% increase. Whereas the prevalence of depression pre-pandemic was 4.12%, indicating a 27.88% increase. Moreover, participants experienced a slightly greater prevalence of depression than anxiety by 1.00%.
To conclude, the first COVID-19 lockdown in the United Kingdom increased the prevalence of anxiety and depression among the general population, compared to pre-pandemic data. Hence, it is vital that policymakers and mental health services maximize their efforts to monitor mental health and provide interventions to support those in need.
Awareness of the high prevalence of anxiety and depression during the first lockdown in the United Kingdom can inform policy development that substantial effort, time, and funding of mental health services are required to support those in need.
Similarly, awareness of the prevalence of anxiety and depression in the United Kingdom can contribute to the development of nation-specific interventions and initiatives.
The current review focuses on the UK general population which does not allow the findings to be generalized to the global population.
The indirect comparison of the current prevalence rates with the corresponding pre-pandemic prevalence rates obtained from a different study sample increases individual differences, weakening the reliability of the findings.