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Anxiety rose and happiness fell as lockdown began, UK figures suggest

PA Graphics

By Ian Jones, PA

Nearly half of people in Great Britain experienced high anxiety during the early days of the coronavirus lockdown, new figures suggest.

Some 49.6% of those surveyed between March 20 and March 30 reported levels of anxiety that rated between six and 10, where 0 is “not at all anxious” and 10 is “completely anxious”.

This is the equivalent of more than 25 million people feeling high anxiety, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which compiled the figures.

Anxiety ratings between 0-1 are classed by the ONS as very low, 2-3 low, 4-5 medium and 6-10 high.

The average anxiety rating in this early period of the lockdown was 5.2.

This figure had slipped to 4.2 for the most recent period surveyed, from April 9 to April 20.

But these averages are still “much more elevated than before the Covid-19 pandemic”, the ONS said.

An earlier ONS survey of people in the UK in the last three months of 2019 found an average anxiety rating of 3.0.

It also found 21.0% of people reporting high levels of anxiety – compared with the 49.6% in the survey taken during the early days of the lockdown.

The ONS has also compared levels of happiness, life satisfaction and feelings that things done in life are worthwhile.

Around one in five people in Britain (20.7%) reported a “low” level of happiness between March 20-30, dropping to around one in six (16.6%) for April 3-13.

A much smaller figure of 8.4%, or around one in 12, reported low happiness in the separate UK survey for October to December 2019.

The proportion of people reporting low life satisfaction has ticked upwards from 8.3% for March 20-30 to 11.4% for April 3-13.

For October to December 2019, the figure was 4.5%.

When asked “to what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?”, 7.7% people rated their feelings as “low” in the period March 20-30, and 6.3% did so in April 3-13.

For October to December 2019, the figure was just 3.8%.

In a separate set of questions, the ONS asked people for their biggest concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

The responses, compiled between April 3 and 13, suggest approximately 8.5 million people are most concerned about their wellbeing, 6.2 million are most concerned about work and 5.3 million are most concerned about the impact to their finances.

The ONS said happiness ratings between March 27 and April 6 were “significantly lower” for those who believed their household financial situation will get a lot worse (5.5) when compared with those who believed it is staying the same (6.8) or getting a little better (7.1).

Those who feel they are not able to save in the year ahead reported average anxiety levels of 5.7 – 33% higher than those who think they will be able to save (4.3).