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06 April 2021

New report explores the long-term impacts of COVID-19

Members of the ESRC Centre for Society and Mental Health have contributed to a British Academy report exploring the long-term societal impacts of COVID-19.

People walking up stairs.

In its the multi-disciplinary evidence review, entitled The COVID Decade: understanding the long-term societal impacts of COVID-19, the Academy forecasts that the impacts of the pandemic will be felt for a decade or more, and that a significant public policy intervention will be needed to avoid an acceleration towards poorer health, social and economic outcomes, and more extreme patterns of inequality.

With others, Centre members Dörte Bemme, Charlotte Gayer-Anderson, Annie Irvine, and Lucy Strang contributed to a submission focused on health and wellbeing policy areas with a specific emphasis on the profound social inequalities starkly highlighted by the differential effects of the pandemic and lockdowns on the mental health and wellbeing of sections of the population experiencing high levels of adversity.

Their analysis helped to develop projections of the likely medium- and long-term effects of COVID-19 on mental health and identify key challenges facing policy makers at all levels, from national to local, and the role of NGOs, community groups, and others in addressing these challenges in different localities, at different scales, and across different timelines. The report proposes actions that will enable us to be better prepared to militate against mental distress and to support wellbeing should a similar event occur again in the future.

While the negative effects of the pandemic and lockdowns on mental health have been experienced by many people across the United Kingdom, our research illustrates how these impacts have fallen most heavily on those with the fewest social and economic resources, including young people, those in precarious employment, people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds and mental health services users with severe and enduring problems of mental health.

Dr Lucy Strang, Post-doctoral Research Associate, Policy Institute

While the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed, exacerbated, and solidified existing inequalities in society, it has also exposed areas of strength, resilience, creativity, and innovation. It is hoped that this rich evidence base will prove a useful resource for policymakers, civil society, media and others who are trying to make sense of the changing landscape

There is – rightly – widespread concern about the impacts of Covid-19 and related social restrictions on mental health. The contributions of members of our Centre to this report serve to highlight important disparities in the impacts of the pandemic by social and ethnic group. As ever, it is the poorest, the most marginalised, and the most vulnerable who have been affected the most and it is here that policies and other strategies to mitigate the impacts on mental health must be focused.

Professor Craig Morgan, Co-Director, ESRC Centre for Society and Mental Health

The COVID decade: understanding the long-term societal impacts of COVID-19 is accompanied by a separate report, Shaping the COVID decade: addressing the long-term societal impacts of COVID-19, which considers how policymakers might respond to these challenges. In addition, the full evidence submission that members of the Centre contributed to, Long term societal implications of COVID-19: Mental Health, is also available. 

For more information about the report, please email

You can download the full British Academy report here


In this story

Dörte  Bemme

Lecturer in Society and Mental Health

Annie Irvine

Research Fellow