News Release

Large rise in depression symptoms amongst UK over-50s during the COVID-19 pandemic, study finds

Peer-Reviewed Publication

University of Surrey

In a paper published in the journal BJPsych Open, researchers directly compared depression scores in people aged 50-plus to their scores from before the Covid-19 pandemic.  

The Surrey team analysed data in 5,331 participants from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing in Summer 2020. Self-reported depression symptoms in June and July 2020 were compared with baseline data from two to three years prior. A range of important demographic and health-related risk factors were investigated. 

The study found a significant overall rise in depression symptoms: 26 per cent of those surveyed met the criteria for clinical depression during the pandemic, compared to just 14 per cent from previous years.  

People living alone, and those with long-term health conditions, were at considerably higher risk. Also, the study found that females were at a much higher risk than males. Females living in an urban environment showed a larger increase in depression symptoms than those in more rural areas – suggesting that the lockdown had a more pronounced effect on people with less access to green spaces. The research also found that those at the younger end of the 50-and-over population suffered more than older people. Education levels and household wealth did not affect risk, suggesting that the mental health impact has been felt across all sections of society. 

Dr Simon Evans, who led the research and is a Lecturer in Neuroscience at the University of Surrey, said:  

“This is an important piece of research that gives us an insight into the impact of the pandemic and lockdowns on the mental health and wellbeing of people aged 50 and over, and identifies the groups who were most affected. This is crucial information as we begin to come out of the pandemic, to ensure that the long-term health and social wellbeing of these individuals are supported.” 


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