Mental health problems in the United Kingdom (UK) are rising during the COVID-19 pandemic. As Movendi International reported previously, those who use alcohol heavily have increased their alcohol use even more during COVID-19. This has led to a rapid rise in the need for alcohol treatment services.

An Opinium poll conducted for The Observer found that mental health among UK citizens is deteriorating due to the pandemic. According to the poll,

  • 43% or four in ten people say their mental health has deteriorated over the past year;
  • More than a third (35%) report that their physical health has gotten worse.

Previously experts have warned that the trauma caused by the ongoing pandemic and its consequences such as stress, anxiety, job loss, job threats could lead to mental health issues among people and an increase in alcohol problems.

4 in 10
Deteriorating mental health
43% or four in ten people say their mental health has deteriorated in 2020 during the pandemic.

Data from the  Global Drugs Survey (a non-representative survey) published in a special edition related to COVID-19 found that among British respondents almost half (48%) of respondents reported an increase in alcohol use during COVID-19. Out of these,

  • 40% stated the increase was due to stress about the pandemic,
  • 27% said the increase was because they were lonely and
  • 29% said they increased their alcohol use because they were depressed.

Major deficit in mental health services

Meanwhile alcohol treatment services in the UK are facing rising demand. For example services in Doncaster, a town in Northern England, are seeing a 100% spike. Councillors in Doncaster say this is due to more people consuming alcohol heavily during the pandemic.

Referrals to treatment services have more than doubled in Doncaster as well. Officials say this is not only because of the pandemic, but because there was a large deficit in service provision already before the pandemic. The coronavirus crisis has just brought the problem into focus and now more people are seeking treatment.

The kind of baseline that we were at before COVID-19 was about 10% of [people who were] dependent [on alcohol] in the treatment system meaning 90% were not accessing help,” said Helen Conroy, DMBC public health specialist, as per Yorkshire Live.

But the increase in referrals to the front door will result in a decrease in that unmet need because there are new people into the treatment system who previously weren’t engaging.”

Helen Conroy, DMBC public health specialist

The rise in mental health problems, including alcohol, during the pandemic highlights the need for the government to prioritize investment in screening, brief interventions and treatment services in the UK.

As previously reported by Movendi International, the Royal College of Psychiatrists said that services were in desperate need for better funding to save lives from being lost to alcohol and other substance use disorders.

COVID-19 has shown just how stretched, under-resourced and ill equipped addiction services are to treat the growing numbers of vulnerable people living with this complex illness,” said Prof Julia Sinclair, chair of the College’s addictions faculty, as per The Guardian.

Prof Julia Sinclair, chair, Royal College of Psychiatrists’ addictions faculty

It doesn’t stop when the virus is under control and there are few people in hospital. You’ve got to fund the long-term consequences,” said Dr. Adrian James, the president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, as per The Guardian.

Dr. Adrian James, the president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists


The Guardian: “Pandemic has had negative impact on mental health: poll

Yorkshire Live: “Huge spike in demand for alcohol treatment ‘due to pandemic’