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Depression on the rise as lockdown leaves many feeling lonely and anxious

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Peaceful: A fishing boat leaves Howth harbour in Dublin as the sun rises yesterday. Photo: Brian Lawless

Peaceful: A fishing boat leaves Howth harbour in Dublin as the sun rises yesterday. Photo: Brian Lawless

PA

Peaceful: A fishing boat leaves Howth harbour in Dublin as the sun rises yesterday. Photo: Brian Lawless

Loneliness, anxiety and depression are all worrying side-effects of a nation in lockdown.

The first major snapshot of how we have been coping reveals that more than four in 10 Irish adults (41pc) are currently feeling lonely.

Researchers also found that people who have lost income are 60pc more likely to meet the diagnosis of depression or anxiety.

In addition, people who had a confirmed or suspected Covid-19 infection were more than four times as likely as someone who hadn't experienced it to meet the criteria for depression or anxiety.

The first wave of the Irish Covid-19 psychological survey results are released today.

More than 1,000 adults completed the survey, which was launched on March 31, a month after the first confirmed case of the virus was reported here, and 19 days after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced restrictions including the closing of schools.

Initial results suggest that mental health problems are common in the population, with 23pc reporting depression, 20pc anxiety and 18pc post-traumatic stress. The researchers from Maynooth, the Centre for Global Health at Trinity College Dublin, Ulster University, Edinburgh Napier University and the University of Sheffield will examine what effect prolonged quarantine and physical distancing measures have on people's mental health and well-being.

"We're seeing high rates of mental health problems like depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress, and these problems are affecting men and women differently," said Dr Philip Hyland, associate professor of psychology at Maynooth University.

"Women are experiencing higher levels of depression at 26pc compared to 19pc in men. They also report higher levels of anxiety at 22pc, compared to 18pc in men, whereas men are experiencing higher rates of post-traumatic stress at 19pc compared to 16pc in women.

"Nearly half of the people surveyed were feeling lonely and those people with higher levels of loneliness were most likely to experience adverse mental health problems."

Dr Hyland will present the findings to the national public health emergency team today. He said it found the over-65s were most anxious about Covid-19. He said that "we know that the longer a pandemic goes on, the more likely mental health problems are to emerge".

Dr Frédérique Vallières, director of Trinity College's Centre for Global Health, added: "Despite encouraging results in terms of people's knowledge on Covid-19, we further found that attitudes towards the uptake of a potential Covid-19 vaccine to be worryingly low, with only 65pc of people indicating they would accept a vaccine for themselves and their children."

It is hoped the respondents will be surveyed again in May.

Irish Independent