COVID-19 has exacerbated existing mental health inequalities for people in Wales, according to a new report from Cardiff University.

The analysis, conducted by academics at the Wales Governance Centre, reveals the share of people experiencing severe mental health issues increased from 11.7 per cent during the period immediately before the pandemic to 28.1 per cent by April 2020.

Jesús Rodríguez, Research Assistant on the Centre’s Wales Fiscal Analysis programme and the report’s author, said: "The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a huge toll on mental health across the Welsh population.

"And while no group has fared particularly well in terms of their mental health, women, younger adults, low-income earners and individuals from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds have experienced worse outcomes. The mental health gap between the wealthiest and poorest has also widened during the pandemic, and we expect significant demands for mental health services for years to come.

"We know that these kinds of mental health impacts can negatively influence an individual’s future education, employment and health outcomes, and so, significant resources will be required for mental health services going forward."


While all parts of the Welsh population experienced mental ill health to some degree during the pandemic and accompanying lockdowns, the report highlights the disproportionate impacts on women, younger adults, low-income earners and those from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds.

Researchers say the findings highlight a crucial public health challenge for the Welsh Government in years to come as mental health is a key determinant of educational success, future earnings, employment, and physical health of an individual.

The report found:

  • The share of people in Wales reporting severe mental health problems climbed from 11.7 per cent pre-pandemic to 28.1 per cent by April 2020.
  • Young adults aged 16-24 experienced the largest deterioration in their mental health as a result of Covid-19, with their average indicator worsening by 24 per cent relative to the pre-pandemic period.
  • On average, women exhibited worse levels of mental health after the onset of the pandemic compared to men.
  • By June 2020, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic individuals in Wales reported on average more than 4.1 problems associated with mental distress, while White British reported 2.7, a difference of 55 per cent in relative terms.
  • The mental health gap between those on the lowest and highest incomes widened significantly during the pandemic. Mental health scores for people on low incomes worsened by 39 per cent by November 2020, compared to by 6.5 per cent deterioration for the highest income earners.