Coronavirus: 1 in 5 Britons say friendships and relationships have worsened during lockdown

One-quarter of workers say relations with colleagues have deteriorated since March

Chris Baynes
Thursday 16 July 2020 07:13 BST
Coronavirus in numbers

The coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on the health of the nation’s relationships, according to research which suggests bonds between couples, friends and colleagues have all been strained by the UK’s lockdown.

One-fifth of people feel friendships with others outside of their household suffered in the last four months as social distancing kept people apart, UCL’s Covid-19 social study found.

But the lockdown seems also to have impacted on those who live together, with 20 per cent of respondents saying friendships with their housemates were now worse. Couples fared little better, with 18 per cent reporting their relationship with their partner had suffered since March.

Relations between co-workers deteriorated the most as many UK workplaces adjusted to remote working and video conference calls. One-quarter of people surveyed for the non-peer reviewed observational study said they were getting on worse with colleagues since the start of lockdown.

“Our study shows that lockdown measures are having a significant toll on people’s relationships, both with people locked down together and those who have been unable to see each other over the lockdown period, said Dr Daisy Fancourt, a professor of psychobiology and epidemiology at UCL.

She added: “This is especially true of people with diagnosed mental health issues and younger adults, as well as those with lower household incomes, key workers, those living along and those living with children, all of whom may be facing greater financial or mental pressures which have been exacerbated during the lockdown period.”

Worsening relationships were most common among younger adults. Of the 12 per cent of people who reported the breakdown of a relationship, most were aged under 30 and the fewest were over 60.

However, researchers found relationships between neighbours had improved since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, particularly among people aged between 30 and 59.

Cheryl Lloyd, head of education at the Nuffield Foundation, which is funding the ongoing study, said the finding “suggests a resurgence in community spirit” during the pandemic.

But she added it was “cause for concern that the survey also show that people who are more vulnerable - those on lower household incomes and those with diagnosed mental health issues - are more likely to report worsening friendships and relationships during lockdown”.

Launched the week before the UK entered lockdown on 23 March, the UCL study is the largest into the UK public’s attitudes, health and wellbeing during the coronavirus pandemic.

Researchers found complete compliance with lockdown measures continued to fall over the past fortnight, particularly among young adults. But 90 per cent of all adults and 80 per cent of under-30s said they were still complying with most rules.

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