Europeans face big mental health issues despite COVID easing - survey

FILE PHOTO: Passengers wear face masks at Friedrichstrasse station during COVID-19 lockdown in Berlin

(Reuters) - The number of Europeans reporting "bad" or "very bad" mental health soared during the COVID-19 pandemic, even beyond the end of lockdowns, new polling showed on Thursday.

European Union agency Eurofound's surveys of 200,000 people found that those reporting "bad" or "very bad" mental health doubled from 6.4% in March 2020 at the onset of the crisis to 12.7% two years later even as restrictions were eased.

"With the reopening of society, many hoped that mental wellbeing would improve. However, in Spring 2022, the risk of depression remains worryingly high for many people," it said, adding that the risk was higher for the young.

The online surveys, from March 2020 to May 2022, also revealed that more people across the 27 EU nations are struggling to make ends meet and at greater risk of energy poverty, in particular due to high inflation.

Some 53% of respondents reported that their household had difficulties making ends meet in Spring 2022, compared to 47% at the start of the pandemic, Eurofound said in a separate report.

"A high degree of concern (about finances) mixed with uncertainty about the future could continue to have a negative impact on mental health," it said.

Moreover, almost one in five respondents reported having unmet healthcare needs, particularly with regards to hospital and specialist care for mental welfare.

(Reporting by Dina Kartit; Edited by Andrew Cawthorne)