Mental wellbeing among Scots reported to have recently declined

THE average level of mental wellbeing among adults in Scotland is reported to have recently declined, according to research published by the Scottish Government.

According to the government’s chief statistician (here), between 2019 and last year – and using a measure of mental wellbeing called the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale – the score was “significantly lower in 2021 than in 2019 (48.6 and 49.8 respectively)”.

And, using a different measure, called GHQ-12, one in five adults (22 per cent) had a score of four or more, indicating a possible psychiatric disorder (it was 17 per cent in 2017 and 19 per cent in 2019).

But there was positive news, not least concerning the smoking of cigarettes (down) and undertaking physical activity (up).

In more detail:

  • Five per cent of adults reported having long COVID. Prevalence was highest amongst those aged 35-64 (six-seven per cent).  One per cent of adults reported that long COVID limited their activities a lot.   The most common symptom reported was ‘weakness / tiredness’, with 63 per cent of those with long COVID reporting this. The next most common symptoms were ‘shortness of breath’ (43 per cent), ‘trouble sleeping’ (37 per cent), ‘loss of smell’ (34 per cent), ‘headache’ (31 per cent), ‘difficulty concentrating’ (29 per cent) and ‘worry / anxiety’ (27 per cent);
  • Three per cent of adults reported ever having a problem with drugs. Twelve per cent of adults reported using drugs in the previous 12 months. Prevalence was highest amongst those aged 16-24 (22 per cent).  Mental wellbeing for adults who had used any drug in the last 12 months was significantly lower than for those who had not (WEMWBS mean scores of 45.4 and 49.1 respectively);
  • Almost one in ten adults (nine per cent) reported having experienced ‘food insecurity’, in terms of having worried that they would run out of food due to lack of money or resources during the previous 12 months. This was the same proportion as in 2019.  Prevalence of food insecurity was highest for single parents and single adults aged under 65 living alone (34 per cent and 19 per cent respectively in 2019/2021 combined);
  • Prevalence of smoking amongst adults continued to fall, to 11 per cent in 2021, down from 28 per cent in 2003.  Rates continued to be much higher in the most deprived areas (24 per cent) compared to the least deprived areas (five per cent). The proportion of children exposed to second-hand smoke in their home (two per cent) was significantly lower than in previous years (12 per cent in 2012);
  • More adults (69 per cent) met the moderate or vigorous physical activity guidelines than in previous years. This continued the general upwards trend since 2012 (62 per cent);
  • Almost half of adults (47 per cent) reported living with a ‘long-term condition’, the same proportion as is 2019. Just over a third of adults (34 per cent) said they had a long-term condition which limited their day-to-day activities;
  • Sixteen per cent of adults had any cardiovascular condition. Six per cent had doctor diagnosed diabetes, five per cent had ischaemic heart disease and three per cent had had a stroke;
  • Almost two thirds of adults (61 per cent) reported ever attending cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training;
  • Prevalence of hazardous or harmful weekly alcohol consumption has reduced from 34 per cent in 2003 to 23 per cent in 2021. Nine per cent of adults reported ever having had a problem with alcohol, with one per cent saying they still had a problem;
  • Five per cent of adults were current e-cigarette users, a reduction from seven per cent each year between 2015 and 2019;
  • 30 per cent of adults were living with obesity. This was similar to or marginally higher than rates in each year since 2008 (ranging from 27 per cent to 29 per cent);
  • Around one in five of all adults consumed five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day (22 per cent). This was similar to levels since 2003 (21 per cent in 2003);
  • One in five children (20 per cent) aged two to 15 met the five-a-day recommendation for consumption of fruit and vegetables. This was significantly higher than in the years 2008 to 2019;
  • Almost half of all adults (48 per cent) met the Scottish Dietary goal to reduce total fat intake to no more than 35 per cent of food energy. Around one in five adults (22 per cent) met the Scottish Dietary Goal for free sugars intake to not exceed five per cent of total energy;
  • Almost six in ten adults (58 per cent) undertook any gambling. This has decreased significantly since 2012 (70 per cent). Prevalence of adult gambling activity excluding the National Lottery has changed to a lesser extent (43 per cent in 2021 compared to 45 per cent in 2012). Online gambling participation has doubled since 2012 (from seven per cent to 14 per cent); and
  • The proportion of adults who reported having at least one accident in the previous 12 months has not changed since 2015 (ten per cent).

Picture credit: Place Design Scotland

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