GP and broadcaster Dr Zoe Williams shares the areas, many of which are health related, that have been most affected by the pandemic and offers her advice on what to do moving forward. 

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Image courtesy of Pixabay

1. Mental health

“It’s normal to feel stress, anxiousness and low mood, especially during this current time, so we should all try and give ourselves a break and take some credit for mentally surviving 2020! However, for many, the uncertainty of this year has meant those feelings may have developed into mental illness. Recent data published by The Office of National Statistics (ONS) shows that almost 1 in 5 adults have been experiencing some form of depression during the pandemic, almost doubling from around one in 10 before the pandemic. Adults who were young, female, unable to afford an unexpected expense or disabled were the most likely to experience depression. To anyone struggling, you are not alone, and things will get better. I urge everyone to ‘speak out’, ‘ask for help’ and not to ‘suffer in silence”.

RELATED: Dr Dawn Harper shares her top tips for better mental health during lockdown

2. General health

“The forever changing ‘new normal’ has resulted in positive health outcomes for some and negative for others. Whilst many have taken the opportunity to rewrite their daily habits, by focusing on healthy home cooking, more physical activity and a better sleep routine, many have not had such opportunity and life has become a struggle emotionally, financially and physically. Because of the current pandemic, women have also seen an impact on their breast health. The Estee Lauder Companies Breast Cancer Campaign UK & Ireland research has showed that, over one in five (21%) women have deprioritised their breast health, and a fifth (20%) of women under 45 would be unlikely to visit a doctor if they noticed any unusual changes to their breasts. If you find a lump or other change that could possibly be a sign of breast cancer, the quicker you see your doctor the better. Forget fears about putting more pressure on the NHS or bothering your GP and book an appointment. You can download a breast cancer leaflet from The Estee Lauder Companies Breast Cancer Campaign UK & Ireland website here:

There has also been reduced access to many other healthcare services. However, the message is loud and clear that ‘the NHS is open’. This winter the ‘NHS help us, help you’ campaign is urging us all to access the services we need, when we need them, and one of the main points that they are driving home is “Speak to your GP if you are worried about a symptom that could be cancer”.

3. Women feeling isolated

The Estee Lauder Companies Breast Cancer Campaign UK & Ireland recent breast health survey found that two thirds of women feel more isolated and less connected to their friends and family, due to the coronavirus pandemic. Talking about breast cancer and being breast aware is a vital part of creating a cancer free world, yet 43% of women said they would be less likely to share breast health concerns. Despite this, encouragingly 84% of women want to unite with other women, healthcare professionals and breast cancer charities to help end breast cancer. Women should feel empowered to talk about breast cancer, and other health concerns by knowing the signs and symptoms of such conditions.”

4. Support groups

“When it comes to women, social support is a must for many of us. However, many of us are suffering from Zoom call fatigue, it’s where we work, where we catch up with family and where we socialise and speak to our friends. It is important to stay connected to your friends and family, and if you can’t, there are plenty of support groups such as and to help, especially given this current time. Reach out to family and friends to stay in touch, however, there is nothing wrong in taking some time out.” Search for support groups near you at

5. Fundraising for charities

“This year has been a disastrous time for many charities. Most of the fundraising events that so many charities depend on, have not been able to go ahead and grants have mostly been redirected towards the Covid-19 struggle. Whilst income is at an all time low, many charities have also been hit with rising demand for their support, especially for those working in housing, social care, mental health and in disadvantaged communities. If you can, my advice is to think about what small local charities exist in the disadvantaged communities close to you – food banks, housing charities, domestic violence and mental health support for example. If you’re able, support charities financially, or volunteer your time or donate clothing or cupboard items that you do not need. Every little bit helps, and helping others is also one of the best things that we can do to help our own mental health.”

6. Relationships

“2020 has been a testing time for relationships. Families have experienced many months apart, and for others it’s been extreme amounts of time together. For families who have had children at home, it has been a challenge, but one that I’m sure children will cherish and be grateful for. This has also been a time to focus on the relationship that we have with ourselves, and if you haven’t yet; spend time with yourself – see it as an act of self-care.”

7. Reproductive health and reduced access to fertility treatments

“Like many NHS specialities, the lockdown has impacted on accessibility to fertility services and contraception services. We have heard the sad stories of women having to attend antenatal scans without their partners and of partners being shunned from the labour ward until the last minute. But let’s also spare a thought for those that may have been trying, without success to have a baby. Fertility services have all but shut down during the pandemic. An additional 8 months wait can feel like a lifetime.

Contraception services were affected too, especially for those looking to change their method or start using contraception for the first time. But most of these are now up and running again. There are lots of contraception options available and women have the right to find and use the best option for them. Make sure you:

· Prioritise yourself and your sexual health needs.

· Do research - ask friends/family and read credible sources online such as NHS website,, FPA and Brook.

· Ask your GP or sexual health professional lots of questions. Sometimes it’s useful to write down your questions beforehand then show them to the doctor or nurse on paper.

· Keep a symptom diary when you start a new contraception and don’t settle for a type of contraception that doesn’t suit you

RELATED: How to support someone with dementia throughout the pandemic

Coronavirus is posing a significant risk for people affected by dementia and many are cut off from the outside world. Around 95% of people with dementia are over 65, with many having other underlying health conditions. As a higher risk group, they are being advised to be particularly careful with the ‘stay at home’ rules... to read more click HERE