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One in nine adults struggling with mental health during pandemic find researchers

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A Swansea University professor has taken part in research that shows one in nine adults consistently had very poor or deteriorating mental health during the first six months of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Those living in the most deprived neighbourhoods along with ethnic minority groups were the most affected, say the team, which included Swansea University’s Professor Ann John and academics from The University of Manchester, King’s College London, Cambridge, and City University.

However, two thirds of adults were in groups whose mental health was largely unaffected by the pandemic finds the study published in The Lancet Psychiatry.

The team analysed monthly surveys between April and October 2020 on 19,763 adults to identify typical patterns of change in mental health, revealing five distinct groups.

The unaffected groups were more likely to be older, white, and from the least deprived areas, with men being especially likely to have consistently very good mental health. According to the research:

  • 12% of the sample were in a group that experienced initial declines in their mental health at the beginning of the pandemic then recovered over the summer. Women and parents of school-aged children were particularly likely to be in this group, experiencing significant improvements in mental health around the time schools’ reopened.
  • 7% of the sample experienced a sustained decline in their mental health.
  • 4% of the sample had mental health that was consistently very poor throughout.

The groups experiencing a sustained decline or consistently very poor mental health were more likely to have had pre-existing mental or physical conditions. They were also more likely to be Asian, Black or mixed ethnicities and live in the most deprived areas.

The researchers also found that infection with COVID-19, local lockdown, and financial difficulties all predicted a subsequent deterioration in mental health.

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The research team analysed the UK Household Longitudinal Study from the University of Essex and the Economic and Social Research Council.

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Dr Matthias Pierce is lead author and a research fellow from the Centre for Women’s Mental Health at The University of Manchester.

He said: “It’s clear from this study that in terms of mental health, the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on minority ethnic groups, those living in deprived areas, others experiencing financial difficulties and those who already had poorer mental health.

“But also we find a large proportion of the population has remained resilient to the effects of the pandemic.”

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He added: “The data we used are superior to other surveys because the UK Household Longitudinal Study uses a high quality representative random sample and includes groups such as the digitally excluded who might not otherwise participate.

“Other surveys, especially those which use social media, are often unrepresentative and can lead to unreliable results.”

Co-author, Professor Ann John, Swansea University Medical School, said: “While it is reassuring that two thirds of adults were largely resilient to any mental health effects of the pandemic and the measures taken to curb it’s spread,  our study highlights yet again the heightening of health inequalities in our society. Those with pre-existing mental or physical health conditions, living in the most deprived areas and ethnic minorities were more likely to have a sustained decline or consistently very poor mental health.”

She added: “While there is much talk of a return to normal, it is vital we recognise these disparities going forward and appropriately address the complexity of the underlying reasons for these differences be they related to poverty, discrimination, access to services, employment or other wider determinants of health.”


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Coronavirus

Autumn COVID booster rollout to start in September with new Moderna Omicron jab

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Eligible adults in Wales have begun to be invited for their COVID-19 autumn booster this week, with brand new Moderna Omicron jab being offered.

The Welsh Government say the roll-out will begin at the start of September 2022 to help boost the immunity of those at higher risk from COVID-19, improving their protection against severe illness and to protect the NHS over winter 2022-23.

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They are also urging people to take up the flu vaccine when offered to protect against seasonal flu.

A single dose of COVID-19 vaccine will be offered to residents in a care home for older adults and staff working in care homes for older adults and frontline health and social care workers.

All adults aged 50 years and over, people aged five to 49 years in a clinical risk group, people aged five to 49 years who are household contacts of people with immunosuppression and people aged 16-49 who are carers will also be offered the autumn COVID booster.

Those eligible aged over 18 will be offered the newly approved Moderna vaccine which protects from both the original COVID virus and the Omicron variant.

Under 18s will be offered the Pfizer vaccine.

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The Welsh Government say that both vaccines will be offered at least three months after a previous dose.

Eligible adults will mostly be invited via letter to attend a vaccination centre, GP or pharmacy for their autumn booster vaccination.

Health Minister Eluned Morgan said: “As the UK moves from a period of pandemic emergency response to recovery, our focus will be on protecting those in society who continue to be more at risk of severe COVID-19.

“Vaccines have had an enormous impact on the course of the pandemic and have helped to weaken the link between the virus, serious illness, hospitalisations and death. They have saved countless lives and given us the freedom and confidence to restart our lives.

“I urge anyone who is eligible and invited to have the autumn booster this year to take up the offer and I thank everyone working on the vaccination programme in Wales.”

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Health boards are being advised to give both the COVID-19 and flu vaccination at the same time where possible, particularly for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), to maximise take up and ensure more people are protected this winter.

The UK is the first country to approve use of the new Moderna bivalent COVID-19 vaccine that protects against both the original strain and Omicron variant of the virus.

It was approved for use as a booster jab on adults by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) on Monday (15 August).

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Coronavirus

Swansea professor’s COVID contribution recognised with new honour

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A Swansea academic at the forefront of shaping our understanding of Covid-19 has received further recognition for his work in the field of data science.

Co-director of Population Data Science and Clinical Professor of Public Health at Swansea University, Professor Ronan Lyons has been elected to a prestigious European body, the Academia Europaea.

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This latest honour follows on from Professor Lyons becoming a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and being appointed OBE in the New Year’s honours.

The focus of his work is the use of routinely collected data to better understand factors that influence health and wellbeing and developing and evaluating interventions aimed to improve the health of the public. He has led some of the largest studies ever undertaken in this field and contributed to research surrounding the pandemic and its consequences at Wales, UK and European level.

Professor Lyons said he was delighted to have been recommended for membership of the prestigious Academia Europaea, which aims to encourage the highest possible standards in scholarship, research and education, and promote a better public understanding of the benefits of learning.

He said: “This honour is a recognition of the shared efforts and hard work of the various teams and partners I’ve had the privilege of working with over the years. None more so than over the last two years, during the pandemic.

“Through the European Population Health Information Research Infrastructure (PHIRI) Project we’re developing research infrastructure to generate the best Covid-19 population health knowledge. The multi-disciplinary, One Wales working group provided crucial evidence to Welsh Government’s response to Covid community transmission and informed policy development across the UK.

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“The International Covid-19 Data Alliance (ICODA) partnership with Health Data Research UK and the Bills Gates Foundation and others, is supporting a globally coordinated approach to tackling Covid and future threats.

“This has been an incredibly challenging period for us all and I’m enormously proud that these labours have been acknowledged and rewarded by this election.”

Professor Lyons now joins more than 5,000 other eminent, individual scientists and scholars, who cover a broad range of academic disciplines that include former Nobel Prize laureates, Turing Award recipients and Fields Medal winners.

(Lead image: Swansea University)

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Carmarthen

Health board lifts visiting restrictions at Glangwili and Withybush hospitals

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Hywel Dda University Health Board has confirmed that restrictions for people visiting patients will be lifted in Glangwili and Withybush hospitals from Wednesday 20 July 2022.

Visiting to Bronglais Hospital, Prince Philip Hospital and community hospitals remain open, by appointment only.

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The health board are advised that it will still be a requirement to wear masks in Glangwili, Prince Philip and Withybush hospitals.

Mandy Rayani, Director of Nursing, Quality and Patient Experience, said: “Last week we had to make the decision to extend measures at Glangwili Hospital in addition to Withybush Hospital to reduce the risk to our patients and staff and we thank people for their support and co-operation.

“We can all continue to take protective measures to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to protect vulnerable people and the NHS.

“We strongly advise anyone in our locality who has the classic symptoms, or who suspects they may have COVID-19 to isolate and take an LFD test. If positive, we urge people to isolate – this will help you to rest and recover while protecting others from risk of transmission.”

(Lead image: Google Maps)

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