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Concerning new official data in this week’s newsletter which suggests that the number of adults in the UK with depression has doubled during the coronavirus pandemic, prompting calls for businesses to prioritise support to avert a looming mental health crisis.

Close on one in  five people experienced some form of depression in June this year, almost double the less than one in ten with symptoms in the nine months leading up to March, according to a report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The research, which surveyed more than 3,500 adults over a 12-month period, revealed that one in eight had developed moderate to severe depressive symptoms during the pandemic.

Of those experiencing some form of depression, the vast majority said feeling stressed or envious was most strongly compromising their wellbeing.  The data showed only 3.5 per cent reported an improvement in their mental health during the pandemic.

Sophie Corlett, director of external relations at Mind, said there was increasing concern that more people would experience mental ill-health and “fall through the gaps” as emergency measures introduced by the government – including the furlough scheme and enhanced statutory sick pay – were wound down.

“We cannot underestimate the impact the pandemic has had on the nation’s mental health – whether that’s bereavement, the devastating loss of life, the impact of lockdown or the recession we are now in,” Corlett said.

Rachel Suff, senior policy adviser at the CIPD, said that a significant stressor was the new work demands and arrangements people were facing as a result of the pandemic. “Working full time from home for a few weeks is a different prospect to doing so indefinitely, and there’s a risk that some could feel isolated emotionally and cut off from the organisation,” she said. “This means many people could be at risk from stress if organisations don’t adequately support people and look after their health and wellbeing.”

Fascinating and frankly disturbing findings on the nation’s health from the ONS and an area we shall we looking at in more detail at our upcoming Virtual Internal Communications Conference next month. Look forward to seeing you there.

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