Trends in psychological distress in Great Britain, 1991-2019: evidence from three representative surveys

Zhang, A. , Gagné, T., Walsh, D. , Ciancio, A. , Proto, E. and McCartney, G. (2023) Trends in psychological distress in Great Britain, 1991-2019: evidence from three representative surveys. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 77(7), pp. 468-473. (doi: 10.1136/jech-2022-219660) (PMID:37188500)

[img] Text
294371.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.

[img] Text
294371Suppl.pdf - Supplemental Material



Background: Previously improving UK mortality trends stalled around 2012, with evidence implicating economic policy as the cause. This paper examines whether trends in psychological distress across three population surveys show similar trends. Methods: We report the percentages reporting psychological distress (4+ in the 12-item General Health Questionnaire) from Understanding Society (Great Britain, 1991–2019), Scottish Health Survey (SHeS, 1995–2019) and Health Survey for England (HSE, 2003–2018) for the population overall, and stratified by sex, age and area deprivation. Summary inequality indices were calculated and segmented regressions fitted to identify breakpoints after 2010. Results: Psychological distress was higher in Understanding Society than in SHeS or HSE. There was slight improvement between 1992 and 2015 in Understanding Society (with prevalence declining from 20.6% to 18.6%) with some fluctuations. After 2015 there is some evidence of a worsening in psychological distress across surveys. Prevalence worsened notably among those aged 16–34 years after 2010 (all three surveys), and aged 35–64 years in Understanding Society and SHeS after 2015. In contrast, the prevalence declined in those aged 65+ years in Understanding Society after around 2008, with less clear trends in the other surveys. The prevalence was around twice as high in the most deprived compared with the least deprived areas, and higher in women, with trends by deprivation and sex similar to the populations overall. Conclusion: Psychological distress worsened among working-age adults after around 2015 across British population surveys, mirroring the mortality trends. This indicates a widespread mental health crisis that predates the COVID-19 pandemic.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Proto, Professor Eugenio and McCartney, Professor Gerard and Zhang, Dr Anwen and Ciancio, Dr Alberto and Walsh, Dr David
Authors: Zhang, A., Gagné, T., Walsh, D., Ciancio, A., Proto, E., and McCartney, G.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Health & Wellbeing > Public Health
College of Social Sciences > Adam Smith Business School > Economics
College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Sociology Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences
Journal Name:Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health
Publisher:BMJ Publishing Group
ISSN (Online):1470-2738
Published Online:15 May 2023
Copyright Holders:Copyright © Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2023
First Published:First published in Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 77(7):468–473
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons license

University Staff: Request a correction | Enlighten Editors: Update this record