One in three people reported mental health problems during the Covid-19 pandemic, an Aberystwyth University study has found, with “stress and anxiety exacerbated by poor digital connectivity in rural areas”.
The report, The Socio-Economic Impact of Covid-19 Pandemic on Ceredigion County Households, reflects the experiences of 246 households as they negotiated the lockdowns and restrictions introduced by UK and Welsh governments.
The survey found that 80 per cent of respondents reported changes to spending habits, mostly on food, utility bills and internet provision, with 40 per cent juggling work with childcare and home-schooling.
Our findings show significant changes in the population’s social, economic and health patterns since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Socio-Economic Impact of Covid-19 Pandemic on Ceredigion County Households report
A total of 55 per cent reported feeling isolated with one in three people reporting mental health difficulties.
The report highlights wide-ranging mental health issues connected to feelings of anxiety, loneliness, isolation and additional stress due to work, home-schooling and caring responsibilities.
The authors argue stress and anxiety reported by residents were exacerbated by slow broadband speeds, poor digital accessibility and connectivity issues which were reported by nearly half of the respondents.
“With the shutting down of most economic activities across the world and the UK through lockdowns, it was inevitable that the resulting impact would be far-reaching and would reverberate across the globe,” the report said.
“Therefore, it was expected that Ceredigion – one of the UK’s rural counties, would not be immune to the socio-economic impact of the pandemic.
“Our findings show significant changes in the population’s social, economic and health patterns since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020.
“Areas such as household spending, care responsibilities, home-schooling, employment situations, mental health, physical and outdoor exercise, and general health conditions have changed considerably during the pandemic.
“In addition, the need for computing devices, internet connectivity, and digital accessibility have all seen an increase during the pandemic.”
The study finds that eight per cent of people needed to take out mortgages, loans, or credit card repayment holidays with their lenders due to reduced income, with 27 per cent making spending cuts “primarily because of a reduction in their disposable income due to the effect of the pandemic on their jobs”.
of survey respondents felt isolated during the pandemic
of survey respondents made changes to spending habits
Among those surveyed, three per cent lost their jobs due to the pandemic due to the company closing, while another three per cent were made permanently redundant.
Nine per cent were put on furlough, but 60 per cent worked from home throughout the pandemic.
Just 53 per cent returned to their pre-pandemic jobs.
The study finds “that the Covid-19 pandemic has negatively affected Ceredigion residents’ mental, physical, and general health”.
“The impacts of Covid-19 and the effects of the lockdown on residents’ mental health and general wellbeing were far-reaching,” the report said.
“As many residents remained at home or shielded during the lockdown, the effects of isolation and loneliness on the elderly and vulnerable members of the population or single-person households became worrying.
“The mental health of young people unable to go to school or to meet up with friends during the lockdown, alongside the increased workload pressures, that many working residents experienced worsened the situation.”
Alongside the problems faced, those surveyed also said that there were “benefits” from the pandemic lockdowns with “many enjoying the opportunity to slow down the pace of life and spend quality time with immediate family”, and 11 per cent finding working from home “to be of significant benefit”.
of survey respondents needed to take out mortgage, loan or credit card repayment holidays
lost their jobs due to their company closing
“Whilst many enjoyed the flexibility of working from home and the time to try new hobbies, as well as enjoying the peace and quiet and increased family time, some found few or no benefits to lockdown,” the report said.
“Comments made included: ‘to the life it has taken away’ and ‘the effects it had on businesses and people’s health and wellbeing, especially in later lockdowns’, with ‘some feelings of frustration expressed at the levels of bureaucracy layered on by Ceredigion County Council on top of the central regulations’.”
Speaking at the launch of the report on 19 September, one of the report’s authors, Dr Aloysius Igboekwu said: “In terms of the impact of the pandemic on Ceredigion households, policymakers should reflect on the effects that the restrictions and lockdowns had on the well-being, including the physical and mental health, of the population.”
The survey ran between April and June 2021.