Exploring the impact of shielding advice on the health and wellbeing of individuals identified as extremely vulnerable and advised to shield in Southwest England amid the COVID-19 pandemic: A mixed-methods evaluation

Research output: Working paperPreprint

Abstract

Objective: Explore the impact and responses to public health advice on the health and wellbeing of individuals identified as clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) and advised to shield (not leave home for 12 weeks at start of the pandemic) in Southwest England during the first COVID-19 lockdown.
Design: Mixed-methods study; structured survey and follow-up semi-structured interviews.
Setting: Communities served by Bristol, North Somerset & South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group.
Participants: 204 people (57% female, 54% >69 years, 94% White British, 64% retired) in Southwest England identified as CEV and were advised to shield completed the survey. Thirteen survey respondents participated in follow-up interviews (53% female, 40% >69years, 100% White British, 61% retired).
Results: Receipt of ‘official’ communication from NHS England or General Practitioner (GP) was considered by participants as the legitimate start of shielding. 80% of survey responders felt they received all relevant advice needed to shield, yet interviewees criticised the timing of advice and often sought supplementary information. Shielding behaviours were nuanced, adapted to suit
personal circumstances, and waned over time. Few interviewees received community support, although food boxes and informal social support were obtained by some. Worrying about COVID-19 was common for survey responders (90%). Since shielding had begun, physical and mental health
reportedly worsened for 35% and 42% of survey responders respectively. 21% of survey responders scored ≥10 on the PHQ-9 questionnaire indicating possible depression and 15% scored ≥10 on the GAD-7 questionnaire indicating possible anxiety.
Conclusions: This research highlights the difficulties in providing generic messaging that is applicable and appropriate given the diversity of individuals identified as CEV and the importance of sharing tailored and timely advice to inform shielding decisions. Providing messages that reinforce self-determined action and assistance from support services could reduce the negative impact of
shielding on mental health and feelings of social isolation.
Original languageEnglish
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jan 2022

Publication series

NamemedRxiv
PublisherCold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press

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