Lockdown has seen a surge in anxiety across the UK with married couples the worst affected – largely because of the extra stress of home schooling.
Married couples or those in civil partnerships who have reported they are suffering from ‘high’ levels of anxiety more than doubled in the first month of Britain’s shutdown.
Pensioners aged over 75 were also twice as likely to be highly stressed as those aged 16-24, the ONS found, with part of the blame being attributed to reporting of their higher risk of serious illness and death from coronavirus, and also their higher levels of loneliness.
Both of these groups, married couples and pensioners, reported the lowest anxiety levels pre-pandemic.
The figures come after the rules were relaced allowing ‘support bubbles’ containing two households, to help those living alone.
Since lockdown was formally introduced on March 23 families have suffered from not seeing their loved ones and having to balance working from home and childcare.
The over 70s have been told to stay indoors as mush as possible and those labeled as ‘clinically vulnerable’ due to pre-existing conditions ordered to shield.
An estimated 785,000 (35%) of those classed as clinically vulnerable report a worsening in their mental health since receiving shielding guidance.
The majority (61%, an estimated 1,369,000) of clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) people reported no difference in their mental health and well-being.
The figures reveal that the group finding the situation hardest were married couples and those in civil partnerships.
Almost one in five (19% of people in long-term official relationships reported feeling this way in the final quarter of 2019, data from the Office for National Statistics shows.
But that rose to almost one in four (39% of those polled between April 3 and May 10).
Those who are married or in a civil partnership are more likely to be balancing homeschooling alongside other commitments.
A quarter of them are homeschooling during the pandemic, compared with approximately 1 in 10 people who are single, separated or divorced.
Between 3 April and 10 May 2020 a higher percentage of those who are married or in a civil partnership also said that homeschooling was negatively affecting their well-being (8%) when compared with all other marital status groups (2%).
Around one in five of those who reported high levels of anxiety during lockdown said that their work had been affected because they were finding working from home difficult, the ONS said.
Overall feeling lonely was the factor most strongly associated with reporting high anxiety – people who “often or always” felt lonely were almost five times more likely to report high anxiety than those who “never” feel lonely.
Dawn Snape, assistant director of the ONS’s sustainability and inequalities division, said: “There is understandable concern about the impact of the pandemic on people’s well-being.
“Our figures show that the equivalent of 19 million adults in Great Britain report high levels of anxiety.
“One particularly striking finding is that 39% of people who are married or in a civil partnership, reported high levels of anxiety. This compares with 19% pre-pandemic.
“It may in part be because of the challenges of homeschooling alongside work and other responsibilities.
“Another marked change is in those aged 65 years or older. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic we consistently saw lower anxiety ratings in those aged 65 years and older, but now we are seeing the highest levels of anxiety amongst this group in lockdown.”
While it believes there is a link between homeschooling and anxiety the ONS was unable to directly correlate the two, with its report noting: “The reason for this is the large number of missing responses to the homeschooling questions and they are not missing at random, they were simply not asked the question as they do not have dependent children.
“If we omitted these people, it would cause large bias to the model and decrease the overall sample size and consequently would have a worse model.”