Loneliness among people with severe mental illness during the COVID-19 pandemic: Results from a linked UK population cohort study

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AIM/GOAL/PURPOSE: Population surveys underrepresent people with severe mental ill health. This paper aims to use multiple regression analyses to explore perceived social support, loneliness and factor associations from self-report survey data collected during the Covid-19 pandemic in a sample of individuals with severe mental ill health.

DESIGN/METHODOLOGY/APPROACH: We sampled an already existing cohort of people with severe mental ill health. Researchers contacted participants by phone or by post to invite them to take part in a survey about how the pandemic restrictions had impacted health, Covid-19 experiences, perceived social support, employment and loneliness. Loneliness was measured by the three item UCLA loneliness scale.

FINDINGS: In the pandemic sub-cohort, 367 adults with a severe mental ill health diagnosis completed a remote survey. 29-34% of participants reported being lonely. Loneliness was associated with being younger in age (adjusted OR = -.98, p = .02), living alone (adjusted OR = 2.04, p = .01), high levels of social and economic deprivation (adjusted OR = 2.49, p = .04), and lower perceived social support (B = -5.86, p < .001). Living alone was associated with lower perceived social support. Being lonely was associated with a self-reported deterioration in mental health during the pandemic (adjusted OR = 3.46, 95%CI 2.03-5.91).

PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS: Intervention strategies to tackle loneliness in the severe mental ill health population are needed. Further research is needed to follow-up the severe mental ill health population after pandemic restrictions are lifted to understand perceived social support and loneliness trends.

ORIGINALITY: Loneliness was a substantial problem for the severe mental ill health population before the Covid-19 pandemic but there is limited evidence to understand perceived social support and loneliness trends during the pandemic.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0262363
Number of pages11
JournalPLOS one
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jan 2022


  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • COVID-19/psychology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Depression/psychology
  • Female
  • Home Environment
  • Humans
  • Loneliness/psychology
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders/psychology
  • Mental Health
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics/statistics & numerical data
  • SARS-CoV-2/pathogenicity
  • Social Isolation/psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom
  • Young Adult

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