Loneliness among people with severe mental illness during the COVID-19 pandemic: Results from a linked UK population cohort study
The Optimising Wellbeing during Self-isolation (OWLS) study from our Mental Health theme has explored loneliness and social support in the severe mental ill health (SMI) population. The pandemic may have worsened mental health for many people in the UK, but how has it affected those who already experienced some of the most profound health inequalities of any section of the population – those with SMI? This population is already underrepresented in general population surveys, so, throughout the pandemic, the OWLS study followed up 376 people with bipolar disorder and psychosis-spectrum disorders to explore a variety of health topics using data from a linked UK population cohort study.
Loneliness was found to be a substantial problem. The data showed that 1 in 3 people with SMI were lonely, and this was higher than the 13-27% who reported being lonely in general population studies. Young adults, and those who live alone, were more likely to report being lonely. Loneliness was strongly associated with a deterioration in mental health reported during the pandemic. The publication (https://bit.ly/3KNVZd) highlights the authors’ concerns that more support should be made available to people with SMI to prevent health inequalities from worsening.
“Social connectedness is essential for good health, and these findings are just scratching the surface. There is such little evidence that explores this topic in the SMI population, and yet it may be an important key to improve health for a large section of the population, particularly the many young people with SMI who live alone.” – Paul Heron, an author of the publication.