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Publication Detail
Trajectories of depressive symptoms among vulnerable groups in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic



The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has affected many aspects of the human condition, including mental health and psychological wellbeing. This study examined trajectories of depressive symptoms (DST) over time among vulnerable individuals in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic.


The sample consisted of 51,417 adults recruited from the COVID-19 Social Study. Depressive symptoms were measured on seven occasions (21st March - 2nd April), using the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9). Sociodemographic vulnerabilities included non-white ethnic background, low socio-economic position (SEP), and type of work (keyworker versus no keyworker). Health-related and psychosocial vulnerabilities included pre-existing physical and mental health conditions, experience of psychological and/or physical abuse, and low social support. Group-based DST were derived using latent growth mixture modelling and multivariate logistic regression models were fitted to examine the association between these vulnerabilities and DSTs. Model estimates were adjusted for age, sex, and suspected COVID-19 diagnosis.


Three DSTs were identified: low [N=30,850 (60%)] moderate [N=14,911 (29%)], and severe [N=5,656 (11%)] depressive symptoms. DSTs were relatively stable across the first 6 weeks of lockdown. After adjusting for covariates, experiences of physical/psychological abuse (OR 13.16, 95% CI 12.95-13.37), pre-existing mental health conditions (OR 13.00 95% CI 12.87-13.109), pre-existing physical health conditions (OR 3.41, 95% CI 3.29-3.54), low social support (OR 12.72, 95% CI 12.57-12.86), and low SEP (OR 5.22, 95% CI 5.08-5.36) were significantly associated with the severe DST. No significant association was found for ethnicity (OR 1.07, 95% 0.85-1.28). Participants with key worker roles were less likely to experience severe depressive symptoms (OR 0.66, 95% 0.53-0.80). Similar but smaller patterns of associations were found for the moderate DST.


People with psychosocial and health-related risk factors, as well as those with low SEP seem to be most vulnerable to experiencing moderate or severe depressive symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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