Lockdown led to happiness rebound

Joel Rogers de WaalAcademic Director, YouGov
August 01, 2020, 1:44 PM GMT+0

YouGov-Cambridge research shows clear negative impact on mental health from COVID-19 pandemic but lockdown measures are mostly associated with improvements in subjective well-being.

According to new research from the YouGov-Cambridge partnership, the outbreak of Coronavirus caused life satisfaction to fall sharply, but lockdown went a long way to restoring contentment – even reducing the “wellbeing inequality” between well-off professionals and the unemployed.

Researchers from Cambridge’s Bennett Institute for Public Policy have used a year’s worth of data taken from weekly YouGov surveys and Google searches to track wellbeing in the British population before and during the pandemic.

This is one of the first studies to distinguish the effects of the pandemic from those of lockdown on psychological welfare, crucially using week-by-week data, rather than monthly or annual comparisons.

As results indicate, the proportion of Britons self-reporting as “happy” halved in just three weeks: from 51% just before the UK’s first COVID-19 fatality, to 25% by the time national lockdown began.  

This reversed under lockdown, with happiness returning to almost pre-pandemic levels of 47% by the end of May. Overall life satisfaction showed a similar trend.

Findings further suggest that although the gap in “wellbeing inequality” remained wide, it started to shrink in lockdown, with some of the most deprived social groups seeing a relative rise in life satisfaction. 

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YouGov-Cambridge Centre

The YouGov-Cambridge Centre for Public Opinion Research is a joint research centre run by YouGov and the Cambridge University POLIS Department, which promotes in-depth collaboration between pollsters and academic experts. Alongside research and events, the Centre contributes to teaching at the University and provides several postgraduate scholarships each year.
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