The Prospective Relationship between Loneliness, Life Satisfaction, and Psychological Distress before and during the COVID-19 Pandemic in the UK

Jelena Milicev , Pamela Qualter, Claire Goodfellow, Joanna Inchley, Sharon A. Simpson, Alastair H. Leyland, Kalpa Kharicha , Emily Long

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Aim:
Mental wellbeing in the UK seems to have deteriorated significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the rates of loneliness, life satisfaction, and psychological distress taking longer to return to the pre-pandemic levels than elsewhere. Nevertheless, there is little knowledge about the interactions between these outcomes, or the factors that played a role in the rates of change. The current study aims to addresses this gap by simultaneously investigating changes in loneliness, life satisfaction, and psychological distress in the UK from pre-pandemic levels to those between April and November 2020, while critically assessing the role of a range of social ecological influencing factors.

Subject and Methods:
Longitudinal data from Understanding Society (N=3475) were used to explore the changes in loneliness, life satisfaction, and psychological distress from pre-pandemic levels (2017-19) through November 2020, the interactions between these outcomes, and the role of individual, social, community, and geographic factors in the rates of change, using multivariate latent growth curve model.

Results:
Loneliness, life satisfaction, and psychological distress deteriorated minimally between April and November 2020, compared to the pre-pandemic levels (2017-2019), while the rate of change in each outcome influenced the rate of change in the other two. Key individual (age, gender, physical health), social (number of friends) and environmental (neighbourhood quality) variables influenced baseline scores and the rates of change.

Conclusion:
Considering significant dynamic associations between loneliness, life satisfaction, and psychological distress, we argue that interventions to tackle any one of the outcomes may have beneficial effects on others, while highlighting malleable factors and individual and community-level interventions to tackle loneliness.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Public Health
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 25 Apr 2022

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