We wantED to understand the impact of the COVID-19 restrictions on the health and wellbeing of people with severe mental ill health.

A brief history

The OWLS project began in April 2020 when we, a group of researchers who are investigating how to improve the physical health of people with severe mental ill health, wanted to explore how the pandemic restrictions were affecting people with severe mental ill health. We worked together with a group of people with lived experience to create a series of questions that would best capture the health and well being, the experiences and the concerns of people with severe mental ill health during the pandemic. Once the questions and methods had been decided we applied for ethical approval and the OWLS study was born. 

What was achieved

We completed an initial survey, OWLS 1 (*367 participants diagnosed with severe mental ill health, from a range of demographics across England), and four additional follow-up surveys, OWLS 2 (249 participants out of the initial 367), OWLS 3 (177 participants), OWLS 4 (170 participants), and OWLS 5 (171 participants). Several research papers emerged from the surveys and these have been published in peer-review journals (see 'Publications' section).

During the study, we also invited participants to join OWLS Cohort, a research-ready group of participants who would be happy to be involved in further research. We managed to recruit 214 people into this Cohort. The purpose of the OWLS Cohort was to follow adults in the UK who have a recorded diagnosis of schizophrenia, bipolar and associated conditions to collect information about health and to reduce health inequalities.

*To learn more about the recruitment, see 'The Cohort' section.