Mental health inequalities in healthcare, economic, and housing disruption during COVID -19: an investigation in 12 longitudinal studies
Giorgio Di Gessa,
Michael J Green,
Ellen J Thompson,
Helena L Davies,
Anna J Stevenson,
Alex S. F. Kwong,
Gareth J Griffith,
Srinivasa Vittal Katikireddi,
Claire L Niedzwiedz,
George B Ploubidis,
Richard J Silverwood,
Claire J Steves,
Posted 07 Apr 2021
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.04.01.21254765
Posted 07 Apr 2021
Background: The COVID-19 pandemic and its associated virus suppression measures have disrupted lives and livelihoods, potentially exacerbating inequalities. People already experiencing mental ill-health may have been especially vulnerable to disruptions. Aim: Investigate associations between pre-pandemic psychological distress and disruptions during the pandemic to (1) healthcare, economic activity, and housing, (2) cumulative disruptions and 3) whether these differ by age, sex, ethnicity or education. Methods: Data were from 59,482 participants in 12 UK longitudinal adult population surveys with data collected both prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants self-reported disruptions since the start of the pandemic to: healthcare (medication access, procedures, or appointments); economic activity (negative changes in employment, income or working hours); and housing (change of address or household composition). Logistic regression models were used within each study to estimate associations between pre-pandemic psychological distress scores and disruption outcomes. Findings were synthesised using a random effects meta-analysis with restricted maximum likelihood. Results: Between one to two-thirds of study participants experienced at least one disruption during the pandemic, with 2.3-33.2% experiencing disruptions in 2 or more of the 3 domains examined. One standard deviation higher pre-pandemic psychological distress was associated with: (i) increased odds of any healthcare disruptions (OR=1.30; 95% CI: 1.20 to 1.40) with fully adjusted ORs ranging from 1.33 [1.20 to 1.49] for disruptions to prescriptions or medication access and 1.24 [1.09 to 1.41] for disruption to procedures; (ii) loss of employment (OR=1.13 [1.06 to 1.21]) and income (OR=1.12 [1.06 to 1.19]) and reductions in working hours/furlough (OR=1.05 [1.00 to 1.09]); (iii) no associations with housing disruptions (OR=1.00 [0.97 to 1.03]); and (iv) increased likelihood of experiencing a disruption in at least two domains (OR=1.25 [1.18 to 1.32]) or in one domain (OR=1.11 [1.07 to 1.16]) relative to experiencing no disruption. We did not find evidence of these associations differing by sex, ethnicity, education level, or age. Conclusion: Those suffering from psychological distress before the pandemic were more likely to experience healthcare disruptions, economic disruptions related to unemployment and loss of income, and to clusters of disruptions across multiple domains during the pandemic. Considering mental ill-health was already unequally distributed in the UK population, the pandemic may exacerbate existing mental health inequalities. Individuals with poor mental health may need additional support to manage these pandemic-associated disruptions.
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