In this data story, we use data from an electronic survey to take a closer look at the impact of the pandemic on mental health.
The number of people reporting “poor” or “very poor” health more than doubled between 2020 and 2022. Despite the lifting of most restrictive measures in early 2022 as the pandemic subsided, the number of people reporting “poor” or “very poor” health continued to rise, from 7.9% in March 2021 to 12.7% in March 2022.
Higher risk of getting sick among respondents reporting poor health
The risk of depression is higher in people who report their health as “bad” or “very bad”.
Here we see the relationship between the level of health reported by the respondents to the electronic survey and mental well-being. A respondent with a score below 50 is considered to be at risk of depression.
In March 2022, the average level of mental well-being in the EU was 47, which is a slight improvement from the level in 2021 (45), but still below the level measured at the start of the pandemic (49).
The pandemic and related restriction measures have been especially linked to the deterioration of young people’s mental well-being.
Although most EU countries had lifted their COVID-19 restrictions by spring 2022, mental well-being has not returned to the expected level, according to the latest e-survey.
Mental well-being and livelihood
With the cost of living rising at an unprecedented level in the EU – with inflation accelerating due to soaring energy prices – mental health impacts, including the risk of depression, may increase.
The graph below highlights the correlation between respondents’ self-reported livelihoods and mental well-being.
An electronic survey revealed that more people struggle to make ends meet and they have a higher risk of energy poverty.
While many respondents expressed concern about their ability to pay utility bills in the next three months (28%), this concern was greatest among those experiencing financial difficulties (45%), and even worse among financially vulnerable households who are already in arrears (74%).
A lot of worry mixed with uncertainty about the future can still have a negative impact on mental health.
Unmet healthcare needs
Unsolved healthcare needs have increased across the EU and affect almost one in five respondents (18%). The treatment backlog is greatest in hospital and specialized hospital care, where mental health care has not been met.
Although there has been a slight decrease in youth healthcare needs (62% in 2021, 49% in 2022), there are worrying signs that younger women are at greater risk, with almost one in four reporting unmet need. 5 in 2021).
As society reopened, many hoped that mental well-being would improve; in the spring of 2022, however, the risk of depression is still worryingly high for many.
Another new reality caused by the pandemic is the widespread backlog in healthcare, especially in hospital and specialized medical care. It is clear that healthcare systems need support to cope with high levels of mental health problems, as an electronic survey shows an increase in unmet mental health needs. Fortunately, the alarmingly large number of respondents in the youngest age group (18-24) who reported an unmet health care need in 2021 (62%) has decreased slightly in 2022 (49%).
The Fifth Round of Eurofound’s online survey, launched from 25 March to 2 May 2022, sheds light on the social and economic situation of people across Europe two years after COVID-19 was first detected on the European continent. It also explores the reality of a new era of uncertainty caused by the war in Ukraine, inflation and rising energy prices.
The findings of the electronic survey reveal the high toll of the pandemic, as respondents reported lower trust in institutions, lower mental well-being, increased unmet health care needs, and increased care at the time of the pandemic. the number of households suffering from energy poverty.