Mental health in the UK worsened substantially as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic – by 8.1% on average and by much more for young adults and for women which are groups that already had lower levels of mental health before Covid-19. Hence inequalities in mental health have been increased by the pandemic. Even larger average effects are observed for measures of mental health that capture the number problems reported or the fraction of the population reporting any frequent or severe problems, which more than doubled for some groups such as young women. It is important to control for pre-existing recent trends in mental health when attempting to understand and isolate the effects of Covid-19.

This version was updated on 10 June to amend formatting and update the abstract and introduction.