Coronavirus is impacting all of our lives. These pages highlight key findings from ongoing research Samaritans is doing to understand the impact of the pandemic on wellbeing.
Understanding the impact of the pandemic on our callers
The coronavirus pandemic is having profound social, psychological and economic impacts all over the world.
Because of the time it takes to register suicides, it’s too early to know the effect of the pandemic on suicide rates, and it is important to remember that a rise in suicide rates is not inevitable. Fortunately, early evidence from the National Confidential Inquiry (NCISH) and the University of Manchester suggests suicide rates during lockdown in England have not been impacted in the way that many of us were concerned about.
However, evidence shows us that, as well as affecting people’s mental wellbeing, the pandemic is having an impact on factors we know are related to suicide risk. Samaritans is seeing the direct impact of coronavirus on people’s wellbeing in the UK and Ireland.
Since the pandemic began, we have been conducting research to understand more about how coronavirus is affecting people who access our services. This has involved analysis of anonymous data we routinely collect about our calls and emails, as well as research with our listening volunteers since social distancing restrictions began and a nationally representative, longitudinal survey of people’s wellbeing.
In the six months since the restrictions began (23 March – 27 September 2020), we provided emotional support over 1,200,000 times to people struggling to cope, via phone and email.
One in five of our calls were from people who were specifically concerned about coronavirus – although, our volunteers suggest that coronavirus has affected every one of our callers in some way, even if it isn’t their main concern. For callers concerned about coronavirus, worries about isolation, mental ill-health, family and unemployment have been the most common concerns.
As restrictions first set in, people’s concerns about coronavirus were mostly related to health, but as time has gone on, the knock-on effects of the pandemic have become more prominent, for example economic worries.
We’ve also seen a change in the way people use our services during this time - in the six months since social distancing restrictions began, we answered more than a quarter of a million emails – a 37% increase compared to the same time last year.
It is clear that the pandemic is affecting everyone – but not everyone is affected in the same way, and based on our ongoing research we are particularly concerned about three groups: