More than half of young adults not ‘strictly’ sticking to lockdown guidelines

By Nuffield Foundation

Strict adherence to government COVID-19 lockdown guidelines and overall confidence in government are at all-time lows, according to UCL’s COVID-19 social study of over 90,000 adults during the coronavirus epidemic.

The ongoing study, which was launched in the week before lockdown, is funded by the Nuffield Foundation with additional support from Wellcome and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). It is the UK’s largest study into how adults are feeling about the lockdown, government advice and overall well-being and mental health.

The study shows that ‘complete’ compliance of following government recommendations (such as social distancing and staying at home) has decreased in the past two weeks – declining from an average of 70% of people who were ‘completely’ adhering to under 60%. Under 50% of younger adults are ‘completely’ complying with lockdown rules. However, 95% of all adults and 92% of young people are still showing ‘reasonable’ or ‘good’ compliance with the measures.

Respondents were also asked how much confidence they had in the government’s handling of the COVID-19 epidemic from one (not at all) to seven (lots). The study finds that there has been a decrease in confidence in government in England since the easing of lockdown was announced on 10 May – from five at the beginning of lockdown to around four.

Other key findings from 11-17 May show that levels of anxiety and depression have not improved since the easing of lockdown. Although worries relating to becoming ill from COVID-19 have fallen slightly, feelings of stress about food, finance and unemployment have remained the same.

Lead author, Dr Daisy Fancourt (UCL Epidemiology & Health Care) said: “Throughout lockdown, compliance with government advice has remained generally very high, but we have seen a decrease over the past two weeks. Confidence in government has fallen in England since the easing of lockdown was announced and is lowest in those under the age of 30.”

The figures show that 1 in 6 people are now worried about catching COVID-19 or becoming seriously ill from it compared with around one in three right after lockdown was implemented. 

Around 1 in 12 people say they are worried about unemployment. These levels are similar across most demographics, although higher in those under 60 and those with a mental health diagnosis.

Around 1 in 8 people are worried about finances. Stress relating to accessing food has stabilised in the past week, with fewer than 1 in 20 people now worried about this.

Cheryl Lloyd, Education Programme Head at the Nuffield Foundation said, “These findings provide helpful insight into people’s response to the government’s announcement of the England’s new COVID-19 alert system. Interestingly, whilst life satisfaction levels have remained stable, full compliance with lockdown restrictions has fallen over the past week, especially among those under 30.”

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